Universal Coal
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the Concerned Citizens of Lephalale were not impressed with the DMR when it granted an environmental authorisation to a coal mine.

Earlier this year, environmental justice group Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the Concerned Citizens of Lephalale, assisted by the Centre for Environmental Rights, launched an appeal against the decision of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to grant an environmental authorisation to Groothoek Coal Mining for the proposed construction of a coal mine in Lephalale, Limpopo.

The proposed coal mine had local residents in an uproar, as it was planned to be built inside the residential boundaries of the town of Lephalale.

The opencast coal mine would have been located a few hundred metres from a block of flats, and from the provincial hospital in Lephalale.

Most of the Onverwacht suburb of Lephalale would have fallen inside the blast zone of the mine.

Additionally, the township of Marapong, located near the proposed mining site, is primarily made up of low-cost housing known to have weak foundations.

The risk that blasting at the proposed coal mine would cause the houses in these residential areas to collapse or suffer severe structural damage was of major concern to the groups opposing this mine.

It is also well-known that the Waterberg is a water scarce region, and residents have already been raising concerns regarding the constraints in water availability.

Earthlife Africa and local residents argued that the proposed mine would further add to the residents’ water troubles.

Three other separate appeals were submitted against the same DMR environmental authorisation: By Eskom’s Matimba Power Station, by the Lephalale Local Municipality and by Camelot Reserve.

On 11 November 2017, the Minister of Environmental Affairs upheld the four appellants’ appeals.

She set the decision to grant the environmental authorisation aside and referred it back to the DMR for reconsideration.

In her reasons for the decision on appeal, the Minister stated that the DMR conceded that the decision to grant the mining right to Groothoek Coal Mining was “premature”, and that the environmental authorisation issued to Groothoek was defective.

“We welcome the DMR’s willingness to admit that a mistake had been made,” says Elana Greyling, a local activist in Lephalale.

“We also appreciate the Minister of Environmental Affairs’ commitment to rational decision-making that complies with environmental laws, and the principles of administrative justice.”

Feature image credit: Wikimedia