Following an application by Manzolwandle Investments to mine coal in an area of about 18 000 ha close to Komatipoort and the Kruger National Park, the agricultural interest group Saai – the representative of family farms – joined as interested party to oppose this development.
The target area comprises mostly irrigation farms in export industries. High-intensity farming, which employs a large number of workers, is much more sustainable than the planned mine. “Initial calculations indicate that a one-off yield at a stripping ratio similar to other anthracite mines in the Vryheid formation north of Swaziland will not be viable. Moreover, the land will be left barren and dead for centuries to come. This one-off yield, as well as damage to the water table, ecology and tourism, should be weighed up against the current agricultural activities in the area, which can yield a growing income of more than R100 000 per hectare per year after deductions for an indefinite time,” says Francois Rossouw, CEO of Saai.
In addition, the Departments of Mining and Environmental Affairs have poor records regarding the application of rehabilitation rules, which is quite evident from struggling open-pit coal mines elsewhere in Mpumalanga. Neither is there any indication that these departments will in future be improving their ability to apply law enforcement and successful rehabilitation management.
According to an independent mining consultant and Saai network partner, silt dams, waste dams and water purifying plants are required to mine anthracite and sell it as a viable product. The quantity of water needed for this process will significantly lower the water tables of adjacent farms and affect irrigation farmers as far as 300 km along the river. Moreover, the dust generated by open-pit mines will negatively impact crop fertilisation in the area.
Coal mines in the Mpumalanga Highveld had a damning effect on agricultural production over the past two decades. Acid-rain, coal dust, hundreds of trucks that decimate roads, an increase in stock theft, air and water pollution, and noise are but a few of the implications that uncontrolled side-effects of mining activities have on neighbouring agricultural production.
Saai submitted its application to register as interested party on 25 June 2019. The planned mining development affects more than just agricultural activities in the area, and Saai wants to oppose the application of Manzolwandle Investments in cooperation with other interest groups.