ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES - William Bower open cast coal mine - near Dullstroom

Environmental issue/project: William Bower open cast coal mine - near Dullstroom
Date: 2011-06-20

Name of person reporting: Peter Arderne
Email address: mwardern@mweb.co.za
Phone: 083 4577478

Description of issue:

The applicant wishes to operate an open cast coal mine approximately 7 km to the north east of Belfast, Mpumalanga on the farms Groenvlei and Lakensvlei. This would threaten the headwaters and water users of the Elands River which flows east towards Machadodorp, Waterval Boven and Nelspruit and the Lakensvleispruit, a tributary of the Steelpoort/Olifants River system. A previous application by JKC mining on the same property was turned down in 2009.

Review of Issue
Date:
2011-09-01
On 29/08/2011 the consultants for this project, Menco, held a public participation meeting in Belfast in order to review the EIA. The meeting was well attended and the general opinion of those attending was that this project was fatally flawed. Strong objections to this project are currently being submitted to Menco (deadline today) and to the DMR where the deadline is end September.

Review of Issue
Date:
2011-09-01
The consultants for this project, Menco, held the second public participation meeting in Belfast on 29/08/2011 to review the EIA. Stakeholders attending were virtually unanimous in their comments during the meeting that most aspects of the project which is in the scoping phase were fatally flawed. The documentation will now be submitted to the DMR by Menco and the many objections to the project must be submitted to Menco by today or to the DMR Witbank by end September.

Review of Issue
Date:
2012-02-13
The RMDEC meeting at DMR Witbank took place this week on Tuesday 7th Feb after this meeting arranged for late last year had been cancelled twice by the DMR, both times at very late notice . Amongst other items the WPB Coal Mine application was on the agenda. It was attended by a number of people opposing the application including among others the MTPA, Dr Koos Pretorius, and EWT. The chairman, a DMR official, gave the delegation opposing the application a “tongue lashing” stating he had no concern for “frogs and things” and was only focused on developing the economy because the country needs coal. The applicants (WPB) joined the fray with gusto calling the delegation “just weekend farmer greenies who are anti-mining activists” and contending there are only about 10 hospitality workers around the locality. The delegation responded with great vigour to these outrageous remarks and scored some good points, but they were still very disappointed by the very prejudiced remarks of the DMR appointed chairperson. This RMDEC meeting will be discussed at the next meeting of the SEI coalition on 15/02/2012.

Review of Issue
Date:
2012-10-13
As it is believed that DMR Witbank will recommend to the Minister that both this application and the Ibhubesi diamond mine application be approved a lawyers letter has been sent to the DMR insisting that we be advised of the decision. Copies of these letters have been sent to the legal department of DMR Pretoria and the applicants.

Review of Issue
Date:
2013-03-05
We have now been advised that a mining right has been issued and we will now have to decide whether to appeal this decision which could cost as much as R60 000 and must be done within 30 days of 27/02/2013. We must also consider whether to appeal the Environmental Plan when this becomes available while following up with Water Affairs as to whether a water use permit has been issued. The issue of this mining right is an extremely serious threat to the environmental integrity of the area and a serious threat to all water users downstream towards Machododorp and further in the Elands River catchment.

Review of Issue
Date:
2013-05-29
An appeal was submitted by Dr Koos Pretorius 2 months ago which cost only R500. Although the DMR should have replied within 30 days nothing has been received from them despite several reminders. It is now highly likely that the matter will go to court as the CER have agreed to take the case.

Review of Issue
Date:
2013-11-20
This mining right is now the subject of 3 appeals, none of which have been responded to by the DMR. In addition the CER, on behalf of Birdlife SA, wrote to a letter to the Minister Water Affairs pointing out that the application for a water use permit had not been preceded by a public participation process. No response received to this letter either.

Review of Issue
Date:
18-05-2015
3 appeals have been lodged against the issue of a coal mining right to WPB Bower colliery. A response is required from the DMR within 30 days but despite the fact that over 6 months have elapsed nothing has been heard from the DMR.

Review of Issue
Date:
29 November 2015
WPB Colliery granted a water use licence earlier this month. At least 2 appeals will be lodged opposing the granting of the permit.

Review of Issue
Date:
2016-09-26
We believe that the miner has finally given up on account of delays caused by our appeals etc. This has resulted in funders withdrawing support.

Review of Issue
Date:
2017-06-28
Immediately after Easter 2017 preparations for the start of an open cast coal mine commenced. This was obviously illegal as the water use licence issued in 2015 had been appealed and was therefore suspended. In addition the mine was guilty of a number of other offences. Local stakeholders asked the CER and FSE (Federation for a Sustainable Environment) to intervene. The CER had already approached the court in order to obtain an answer from the DMR Minister to the appeal against the issue of the mining right dating back to 2013 and to which no response had been received. The court gave the Minister 30 working days to respond but no response was forthcoming. In the meantime local stakeholders have raised over R160 000 to fund legal action. The CER has also written to the mine's attorneys who have advised that no further mining will take place until the matter has been resolved in court.

Review of Issue
Date:
9 November 2017
The Minister of Water Affairs has uplifted the suspension on the water use licence citing the miners losses due to the delays. However, any effort to re-commence mining will trigger an urgent interdict. As the miner has committed any number of offences the opposition will be sure to win in court.

Review of Issue
Date:
6th April 2020
Mining on the site has been continuing for over 18 months. This despite the fact that there has been no rezoning of the site from agriculture to mining. The consortium opposing the mine believe that there have been serious contraventions in terms of both the mining permit and water use licence. In October 2019 the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation undertook a full audit. The consortium opposing the mining has applied for the report on the audit using the PAIA system. To date the DWS have not produced the report despite numerous emails and phone calls from the consortium. It is highly likely that AMD will decant from the site if this has not happened already.

Review of Issue
Date:
7th April 2020
This open cast coal mine has been operating for about 18 months and is at the head of the Elands River and on the border of the Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment. It appears that there have been serious offences committed in terms of both their mining permit and especially their water use licence. A full audit was carried out by the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation in October 2010. The consortium opposing the mine have PAIA ed the DWS to obtain the report on the audit but despite numerous reminders the report has not been supplied which the DWS is legally obliged to do. It must also be noted that the land has not been rezoned for mining and damage to wetlands which was reported to the DMR did not result in prosecution. Charges against the mine have also been laid against the mine at Belfast police station for numerous offences but no action has been taken.

Review of Issue
Date:
25 August 2021
The water use licence was renewed/extended for a period of 18 months in about October 2020 despite the fact that the audit carried out by the DWS indicated non-compliance. It was also issued without the necessary public participation and consultation with stakeholders. The consortium opposing the mine had PAIAed the DWS for the audit report and this was received in June 2020, some 10 months after the PAIA was submitted.

Review of Issue
Date:
4th November 2021
A meeting was arranged at Greystone Lodge on 25 October 2021 at which land and property owners close to the mine were to have handed over their complaints about illegal blasting by the mine, damage caused to buildings by the blasting and the problem of coal dust in the area. Unfortunately, the meeting ended in chaos caused by the arrival of a taxi load of MK veterans dressed in their uniforms who supported the miner and took a hostile attitude to the complainants.

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