Sand storm forces Vaal family out of R14m river mansion
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Johannesburg - The grass is freshly cut and the garden perfectly sculpted, but there’s no one home at the Hanekom’s luxurious mansion on the banks of the Vaal River.
Albie Hanekom’s wife Marie has already moved out and returned to live in Vanderbijlpark.
He is only here intermittently because there is still a lot of packing to do.
For the past four years, the Hanekom family has lived here in Vaal Eden, between Vanderbijlpark and Parys.
But since a new sand mine started operating in October, run by Sweet Sensations, Hanekom tells how the family has had little choice but to abandon its palatial R14million estate.
The 60-year-old shows off his unused casino and movie theatre. “We bought this house for the enjoyment of our family and made these extensions for our children and grandchildren.
“But the mine is right on top of us and we can’t live here with the noise and the dust. My house is worth half of what it
In April, his court case against Sweet Sensations is scheduled to start. He has spent more than R500000 fighting the firm, he says.
“But you can't keep fighting,” he says, wearily. “These sand mines are mushrooming all over the Vaal.”
But Pieter Koekemoer, who owns Sweet Sensations, says the Hanekom family has known for years that a sand mine was in the pipeline. “We knew it was a sandy farm, that whole area is sandy.
“Later, we discovered there’s a lot of silica sand and that maybe there was a commercial value for this. We explored and applied for various permits all the way.
“He bought the property in 2011 and our exploration had been done before that. He is upset that he bought into a place where mines are and since then he has made what borders on a personal vendetta, to get rid of mines in the area.
“This is an unhappy resident who’s trying his utmost to stop our business. A resident bought a house here knowing full well we were going to be mining sand.”
The silica sand it is mining is supplied for the construction and building industry and for glass companies.
“There’s huge demand. The supply has to come from somewhere.
“I’m astounded by people saying the mines are going to contaminate the river. The sand comes from the river.
“Now there’s a commercial value that is being exploited, and it’s got to be done by the rules, which is what we have done. We have followed the letter of the law all the way. It took us 10 years to get our mining right.”
The impact of the meteorite that caused the crater in the Vredefort Dome caused the “whole riverbed to move, it’s an ancient riverbed and there are sand mines all the way from Vereeniging, all the way down the Vaal. They've been there for over 30 years.
“This river sand has accumulated over millennia and that's what we're taking. Our mining activities are nearly a kilometre from the Vaal River.
“We are not mining on his doorstep. We are 975m away and we made a choice to start mining away from his property.”