It is always better to write about the good than the bad.

Without question my life would be great if I could fill this blog with the great things that mining is doing for the environment and society. Unfortunately this is seldom the case.

Today started different. VERY different.

I attended a stakeholder meeting by Keaton Energy (you will remember I recently published a scathing report on them). The whole story will be written and (hopefully) published soon, but in essence they promised that the farm villagers of Vanggatfontein will be socio-economically better off after the relocation. They also announced that they will NOT mine a wetland that they previously targeted!

The second phase of the day was a less happy one. It started off by driving past a ‘rehabilitated’ mine, where people were picking coal from the discard that was sparingly covered by a thin layer of topsoil. Yup, to survive and obtain energy low income groups in South Africa resort to this method of collecting low grade coal for cooking. I have not yet identified the original mining company, but time is on my side…

Next I drove from Kriel towards Bethal. There is a dragline active in the area, and today I had time to go and have a look. This was one of the most depressing scenes I saw in a long time: A major wetland being indiscriminately tilled by two huge draglines (with a third not too far off on the horizon). I researched a bit, and at the moment it seems that Anglo Coal is doing the damage here, on prime agricultural land – inside a river that is probably a tributary to the great Vaal river that supplies Johannesburg and much of Gauteng with drinking water.. From what I see there is nothing left of the Steenkoolspruit (roughly translated as Coal Creek) where the draglines stand. Now I may be wrong and misguided, so I sent an enquiry to Anglo Coal on their Isibonelo Colliery. I really hope that they can be transparent and demonstrate it with straight answers to my queries.

A dragline at Anglo Coal's Isibonelo Colliery

A dragline at Anglo Coal’s Isibonelo Colliery

Since I was in Anglo Enquiry mode, I also reminded them of a previous unanswered enquiry about their involvement in the Southstock area, where Anglo Coal and Xstrata’s borders have become so vague that it is near impossible to determine who is responsible for what.

Adding the Exxaro PAIA response that needs analysing and my normal day to day duties it seems that there is a mountain of work ahead before I can even dream about a holiday. Oh, and then there’s the Dullstroom story too, but more about that later.

I will keep you posted!

Brought to you in collaboration with EJOLT and CCS who commissioned me to write for them about environmental justice in Mpumalanga. (gotta cite them and do so with pleasure!)


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