The Philippi Horticultural Area File photo: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – Activists battling for the preservation of the Philippi Horticultural Area (PHA) have claimed victory after the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) rejected a water-use licence (WUL) application by Consol Glass Mini.

While Consul is appealing the decision, the PHA Food and Farming Campaign also raised concerns about the procedure followed by Consol to obtain its WUL, saying the company attempted to exclude any opposers by making the applications behind closed doors.

Opponents of commercial development on the farmland in the heart of the Cape Flats say this will threaten the livelihoods of emerging farmers, their workers and local food security, and place the 630km2 Cape Flats aquifer in jeopardy.

The campaign's Susanna Coleman said the rejection of the WUL application was a mini-victory.

“We lost the rezoning appeal and we lost the Environmental Impact Assessment process that resulted in the granting of the environmental authorisation for Consol to mine in Phillipi. 

"Sand mining is an inappropriate and undesirable use of land in Philippi, given the importance of safeguarding the agricultural land, its unique ecosystem and the Cape Flats Aquifer,” she said.

The mining activity would also destroy the heritage of the farmlands and pollute the neighbouring False Bay Nature Reserve, she added.

Coleman said the property had been rezoned for mining use by the City without the knowledge of the campaign and this was a tactic used to exclude opposers.

In October, the campaign turned to the Western Cape High Court, challenging a 2011 provincial government decision to rezone the urban edge of prime agricultural land. They asked for a declaratory order for protection of the full 3 000ha area of the PHA.

The campaign has also challenged research behind the decision, saying it did not consider the impact of development on the aquifer, which in itself was poorly understood.

Consol’s senior executive Thami Mkhuzangwe said the company submitted an appeal to the Water Tribunal regarding the department's rejection of their application.

Mkhuzangwe said the WUL was critical to the future of silica sand mining operations and the new mining licence would ensure the continuation of container glass-making in the province and be a significant contributor to the broader economy in the area.

“We are sensitive to the value of the PHA and in discussion with various stakeholders. We've identified a location with low agricultural value and limited our request to around 30ha, which is less than 1% of the broader PHA region and which will be sufficient for our needs for many decades,” Mkhuzangwe said.

He said that mining rights granted by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and the Department of Environmental Affairs included very specific operating conditions, including a comprehensive rehabilitation plan and financial guarantees.

Mayco member for spatial planning Marian Nieuwoudt said: “The PHA Food and Farming Campaign was not listed as a registered community organisation with the relevant sub-council at the time and, therefore, no notification of any land use application was sent to it as a registered organisation. 

The City has, in April 2018, approved a new Municipal Spatial Development Framework (MSDF) which replaced the 2012 Cape Town Spatial Development Framework. The revised MSDF supports the protection of the core agricultural areas of the PHA and to that end designates the PHA as a unique agricultural area.”

The DWS did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

Cape Times