Environmental groups protesting outside the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, against mining in a protected area. Picture: Jacques Naude

Pretoria - Various environmental groups and Atha-Africa Ventures Ltd have reached an agreement for now on mining related activities on the site of the Yzermyn (corr) Underground Coal Mine, situated in a protected area outside Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga.

The coalition wanted an interim interdict against the commencement of mining in the area by the Indian-owned mining company. 

The coalition, in its papers presented to the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, asked for an urgent interdict stopping the the mining company from commencing with any mining or related activities inside the Mabola Protected Environment without a confirmed environmental authorisation and local planning approval.

The coalition consists of, among others, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, Birdlife South Africa and the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

Following settlement negotiations,Judge Hans Fabricius removed the matter from the roll. Each party will pay its own legal bill.

The mining company persisted with its stance that the coalition was not entitled to an urgent interdict. 

It, however, said in order to find a practical solution for the battle between the parties, it undertook to only commence its mining-related activities in the area after all the applicable authorisations and permissions, as required in law, have been obtained.

According to Atha-Africa, it has, in the past, also given this undertaking to the environmental groups. The only difference is that the undertakings were now made an order of the court.

In terms of the agreement, Atha-Africa will, through its attorney, give the Centre for Environmental Rights - which represented the applicants - three weeks written notice prior to the commencement of any mining activities in the area.

Catherine Horsfield of Environmental Rights said the effect of the order is that the mining company is now obliged to give three weeks written notice. 

This, she said, is important because the coalition is challenging all the licences granted for this mine and they were not in agreement what licences the mine would require. 

“In view of the irreversible damage that would be caused by mining in this area, the coalition will take all steps necessary to prevent mining from commencing, including further court proceedings, “she said.

Horsfield warned that the battle was far from over, as there is still a judicial review of the mining right pending, as well as a host of appeals regarding the authorization of the various rights afforded to the mining company regarding its proposed coal mining operations in the area.

She said the coalition opposed this mine because it would be inside a declared protected area and a strategic water source area. 

“It will threaten water security not only in the local area, but also in the region.

“The damage that this mine would do to water resources cannot be undone. All these organisations are deeply committed to job creation and improving the quality of life of local people, but we also know that coal mining has devastated the lives, health and well-being of communities across the Highveld,” she said.

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