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Permits allowing mining less than 6km from a World Heritage site in South Africa were approved in July 2011. The permit allows Australian-owned Coal of Africa Limited’s (CoAL) subsidiary, Limpopo Coal company Pty ltd. to mine near Mapungubwe. In 2003, UNESCO listed Mapungubwe as a World Heritage Site.
The Mapungubwe National Park lies at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers in South Africa. In the early 1930’s, Ernst van Graan, a farmer and prospector, convinced a Mowena local in the Limpopo province of South Africa to show him where a fabled hill of gold was. The Mowena showed the farmer the hill and on it, an archaeologist’s dream of artifacts were found.
From the Mapungubwe hill, priceless artifacts and information regarding life in southern Africa AD 1300 were found. A golden rhino statue, glass beads and pottery were found on this site. These recoveries tell much about the societal and technological advances occurring around this time.
Groups opposed to the Coal of Africa’s mining so close to a World Heritage site have launched an interdict in an attempt to stop the Vele Colliery operations. The group goes by the name Mapungubwe Action Group (MAG).
It is comprised of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa, the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists, the Peace Parks Foundation, Birdlife South Africa and the Wilderness Foundation of South Africa. They are concerned about the proximity of Vele to Mapungubwe as well as the impact the activities will have on the biodiversity of the unique area.
On IOL.co.za’s Business Report, Nick Hilterman writes “CoAL has been ramping up public relations around the proposed 8,500 hectare largely opencast coal mine in the Mapungubwe cultural landscape, next to Mapungubwe Park and World Heritage site and across the rise from the Zimbabwe component of the forthcoming Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation area.”
The Action Group’s chairperson, commented to a South African Newspaper, The Mail and Guardian, “The interdict application is an interim measure that seeks to prevent the mine from carrying on any mining or related operations on Vele,” Hilterman said.
The applicants have lodged internal appeals against both the decision to grant the mining right and the decision to approve the Environmental management Programme. The decision on these appeals is pending.
Mining Weekly reported that “CoAL has stopped all activities requiring the use of water after a coalition of nonprofit organizations appealed the integrated water use license.” The company is allegedly engaging with the Environmental Affairs minister, Edna Molewa to resolve the matter as soon as possible.
Should CoAL get it’s way, the Vele Colliery should produce about 5 million tons of soft cooking oil over a 25-year period. A website dedicated to the cause of protecting Mapungubwe, lists five things that people can do to help keep CoAL off the World Heritage site, of which one is to sign their petition and another to reach out to the authorities.