The centre said the organisations would, if necessary, take the matter to the Constitutional Court.
Environmentalists yesterday staged a protest outside the High Court in Pretoria in support of an application to stop coal mining activities inside the Mabola Protected Environment, near Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga.
Eight civil society and community organisations, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights, brought an urgent application to stop Indian-owned mining company Atha-Africa Ventures from commencing with any mining and related activities without environmental authorisation and local planning approval.
The application was postponed until today for a possible settlement agreement.
The coalition consists of groundWork, the Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of SA, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, Birdlife SA, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Federation for a Sustainable Environment, Association for Water and Rural Development and the Bench Marks Foundation.
The Centre for Environmental rights said the Mabola Protected Environment area in which Atha-Africa wanted to build a massive underground coal mine fell within a strategic water source area which was vital for producing water for local communities and had been identified as incredibly important for all South Africans.
The area consisted mostly of wetlands, pans and grassland and was a source of four major rivers – the Tugela, the Vaal, the Usutu and the Pongola – that provided water to a huge number of downstream water users, who would be negatively affected if the sources of those rivers were compromised.
The Mineral Resources Minister granted mining rights in 2015, shortly after the declaration of the protected area by the Mpumalanga MEC. Since then, Atha had received licences and approvals from the Mpumalanga environment department, the department of water and sanitation and the Minister of Environmental Affairs.
The coalition has challenged all of the approvals through internal appeals, launched a judicial review in the high court against the original mining right granted and also plans to seek a review of the minister’s decision to approve mining in a protected area.
The centre said the organisations would – if necessary take – the matter to the Constitutional Court. They launched the urgent application after Atha-Africa refused to provide an undertaking not to proceed with the mine.
Emakhazeni – The Emakhazeni local municipality in Mpumalanga is investigating an official who is accused of deliberately supplying dirty water to the community of Siyathuthuka township in Emakhazeni.
The municipality’s executive mayor Hamza Ngwenya confirmed with a News24 Correspondent that an investigation was under way and that the official has since been moved from his position.
“There’s an employee who is suspected of channelling water directly from the dams bypassing the water purification process and feeding it directly to the community for consumption. This is a matter the municipality is still establishing the facts [about] with a view to deal with it administratively,” said Ngwenya on Wednesday.
On Monday, the entire township was brought to a standstill, when the community blocked all access roads to protest against dirty water and allegations of corruption by an official in the municipality.
Residents claim that the upheaval was sparked off by the flow of dirty black water from taps for more than a week.
“For more than seven days we were forced to buy water for drinking and bathing because the tap water was so dirty and black,” said a protesting resident who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Another resident said a local hospital advised him to boil water before consumption after his daughter fell sick, which could be an indication that the illness may have been caused by the water quality.
‘Difficult’ for the municipality
Provincial health department spokesperson Chris Nobela confirmed an increase in the number of patients with sicknesses that could be linked to the consumption of untreated water.
He said this, however, happened in December 2015.
“Between the 17th and 25th December (2015), the HA Grove Hospital in Emakhazeni treated 19 patients for stomach cramps and diarrhoea, and the patients were being advised to boil the water before use, and since then the situation has normalised,” said Nobela.
Ngwenya acknowledged that it was difficult for the municipality to deal with the matter.
He said as a precautionary measure, the municipality has shifted the official responsible for the water treatment plant to another department while investigations were still continuing.
“The issue of water quality cannot be resolved overnight, especially if it is true that there’s a person who is sabotaging [efforts to supply clean water]. I’m told by the manager that the suspect has been removed from the plant and placed in another department,” said Ngwenya.
He also disclosed that the water infrastructure in Emakhazeni local municipality was no longer capable to match the township’s rapid growth.
“Our infrastructure is no longer able to keep up with the population growth, while there has never been the upgrading of the infrastructure,” said Ngwenya.
He said, however, the department of water affairs would be installing the requisite infrastructure.
“There’s a project that we are going to be implementing through the [national] department of water and sanitation to improve the water infrastructure. According to the department of (water and sanitation), the contractor would be on site by April,” said Ngwenya.
In terms of the department of water affairs’ Blue Drop water audits conducted in 2014, Emakhazeni is described as Mpumalanga province’s 8th worst performing water service authority of the province’s 18 municipalities.
Emakhazeni’s overall Blue Drop score is a mere 50%.
“The Municipality has not maintained a comprehensive water safety planning process since the previous water safety plan was developed in 2012. Corrective actions identified in the 2012 risk assessment are still outstanding and limited implementation of any recommendations provided in the 2013 process audits,” reads the report.
The only time Emakhazeni’s water quality received a Blue Drop certification was in 2011 when it achieved a score of 89%.
BELFAST, Mpumalanga – Experts say mining across Mpumalanga is damaging land that’s vital to food security. Grain SA has warned that this year may be the first time in seven years that South Africa will be a net importer of maize.
An expert has warned that mining in Mpumalanga is damaging land that is vital to food security.Mpumalanga is at the heart of South Africa’s coal production.
Mining coal acidifies the surrounding water and soil, meaning plants can’t grow, even long after the mines have closed down.
Louis Snyman, an environmental and mining attorney at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, has warned that if this continues, the landscape will be left scarred and barren.
“What will happen at the end of the day this water that will be given to mines will be taken directly from farmers which is a huge issue when it comes to food security and when it comes to very fertile arable land becoming wastelands,” said Snyman.
WAKKERSTROOM, Mpumalanga – The insatiable hunger for mineral resources means mining companies are starting to encroach on more vulnerable ecosystems.
With energy and jobs high on the national agenda, government departments are failing in their environmental mandates.
Mpumalanga’s rural communities are caught in the middle of this political power play, with more than 60 percent of the province mined, or reviewed for possible mining, in the past 15 years.
It took more than five years of consultation and negotiation to have Mabola’s grasslands declared a protected environment.
Eight months later, the Department of Mineral Resources started granting mining licences in the area.
Mining companies may have operating permits, but many don’t have water licences.
Water Minister Nomvula Mokonyane estimates nearly 100 mines aren’t complying.
Conservationists have accused government of sacrificing vital ecology to promote mining.
Catherine Horsfield of The Centre for Environmental Rights said, “Other departments such as the DEA and DWS are under pressure too, and confuse their mandates in the process of water protection, environmental protection with economic development and job creation.
“There is a reluctance to be perceived to be anti-development and anti-job creation.”
The mines are also polluting what little these communities have.
Samson Sibande has invested his life savings in this farm, but a mine on the property is poisoning the water and his animals are dying.
Sibande claims he was promised it would be rehabilitated.
But when he approached the department, he says officials couldn’t track down the company responsible.
Louis Snyman of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies said, “We have a perfect storm that’s arising out of poor capacity within department, with the regulations going straight towards the Department of Mineral Resources.”
The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, which oversees biodiversity, says it’s being asked to comment more regularly on applications for mining licences.
The agency is adamant the damage to the environment mustn’t outweigh the benefits of the mines.
Small efforts to recycle boxes and paper in 1997 has transformed Bisant Matsi’s life. He has gone from waste collector to a prominent and successful recycling business owner in Burgersfort, Mpumalanga, inspiring his local community by showing them the value that exists in waste.
Nineteen years ago, Matsi, now successful owner of Burgersfort Waste Management in Burgersfort, started his recycling operation with only seven employees. Two years later, he started collecting cans and working closely with Collect-a-Can, southern African recovery and recycling organisation.
Collect-a-Can works within various communities, encouraging citizens from all walks of life to assist in their can-collecting efforts. “We teach informal collectors that they can make a living or even start their own ventures by recycling cans,” says Zimasa Velaphi, public relations and marketing manager of Collect-a-Can.
Burgersfort Waste Management grew into a recycling operation that collects all sorts of recycling material, including paper, glass, steel, plastic and aluminium. The company currently provides employment for 36 people.
The sky is the limit for Matsi with his high aspirational dreams for Burgersfort Waste Management. “In the next five years, I would like to support an employment team of 100 people with my recycling operation, while also encouraging organisations to set up their own recycling stations where we will collect their waste to be recycled,” he shares. The local municipality and mining companies in the area already supports Matsi’s recycling operation.
Since aluminium cans were introduced into the South African market last year, Matsi experienced significant changes in the Burgersfort community. “People are now realising that aluminium is currently the highest paid recycling commodity. There are no more cans lying around in the area as all the children and women in the town collects aluminium cans to be recycled,” adds Matsi.
Burgersfort Waste Management is an agent for Collect-a-Can in the Burgersfort region to make the weighing-and-paying process easier for both Collect-a-Can and the local community. “The residents in the nearby villages and the schools that are participating in the Collect-a-Can National Schools Competition bring their cans to us for recycling where we pay them according to the weight of cans collected,” he says. The annual National Schools Competition rewards schools with prize money if they collect the most cans.
Matsi’s recycling operation makes a significant difference in the Burgersfort community. “It is amazing to see how clean the environment is since we have started with the recycling operation. The people are realising the importance of a clean and beautiful environment and that recycling waste can serve as an income stream for them,” says Matsi.
Matsi would like to challenge all South Africans, especially the unemployed, to start recycling their waste. “People should open their eyes and see that recyclable waste can be a valuable income resource, while recycling also protects our beautiful environment,” concludes Matsi. “A good recycler is the friend of all living things,” adds Barry Warren, Pretoria regional branch manager of Collect-a-Can.
For more information about Collect-a-Can www.collectacan.co.za
Source: SA – The Good News
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The Mpumalanga water programme has provided water to a total of 24 villages in Bushbuckridge, benefiting 15 000 households in the municipality.
R298 million was spent on the programme, which was implemented in partnership with the Department of Water and Sanitation and Rand Water to provide water to rural communities with water shortages.
“A further R601 million is already being implemented as part of Phase 2 of the support to the municipality to benefit an additional 69 villages,” Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza said on Friday.
Speaking at the opening of the Mpumalanga House of Traditional Leaders, he said the provision of basic services such as water, sanitation, electricity and proper human settlements was key to improving the quality of lives in the country.
Premier Mabuza said municipalities have been tasked with ensuring that water supply is supplemented with boreholes within the next three to four months.
“Where boreholes exist but are non-functional, such boreholes shall be refurbished within the next three to four months in order to ensure that our people have access to water,” Premier Mabuza said.
The province has set aside R186.2 million to address backlogs for the electrification of households in the province for the 2015/16 financial year as part of the Integrated National Electrification Programme.
He said government was implementing the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme to create job opportunities for communities in rural and tribal areas while simultaneously providing food security.
Government had come up with the War on Leaks Programme, which is aimed at improving the sustainability of water supply.
“Youth development, through this programme, shall be key as those with minimum qualifications would not only enjoy access to job opportunities but would also benefit in our long-term skills development and refinement of technical expertise,” Premier Mabuza said.
He said the provincial government would continue to support, strengthen and capacitate all institutions of traditional leadership in the province to accelerate rural development, nation building and social cohesion within traditional communities.
“We will continue to provide capacity and equipping all our traditional leaders with the necessary skills to enable them to better manage, control and lead their councils with professionalism.
“Government will continue to support the capacity building programme for traditional leaders to empower them with the requisite skills and competencies to contribute to economic growth and community development programmes in our tribal communities,” Premier Mabuza said.
Source: All Africa
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Mpumalanga has set aside R2.065-billion for its infrastructure development programme for 2015/16.”Our infrastructure development programme continues to prioritise socio-economic infrastructure such as roads, hospitals and schools,” Premier David Mabuza said in his the State of the Province Address on 27 February.He said the province was making progress in the rehabilitation and maintenance of the coal haulage network to mitigate the degradation of roads in its mining areas.”The construction of the 68km Majuba railway is progressing well and the completion of this project will alleviate pressure on our coal haulage network, as it will change the transportation mode of coal to a number of power stations, especially Majuba Power Station, from road to rail.”The first coal-loaded train is scheduled to begin operating on 31 May 2016. “Once completed, this corridor will have cost in the region of R5.2-billion.”
In the provincial capital, Mbombela, phase one of the implementation of the Integrated Public Transport Network had been completed. Construction of the infrastructure, which involves widening some parts of the central business district road network, was under way. The project was aimed at incorporating all modes of transport.Further, Mabuza said the Moloto rail corridor development programme had been approved. “The Moloto Development Corridor will be a catalyst for stimulating economic growth and job creation that will benefit the province, especially Thembisile Hani and Dr JS Moroka local municipalities.”It will attract private sector investment along the corridor, thereby increasing prospects for employment and local enterprise development,” he said.The national Department of Transport had signed and handed over the project to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa for implementation.
Mpumalanga was making a significant contribution to enterprise development and supporting businesses to create employment opportunities, he said. The province and the Department of Trade and Industry had prioritised the establishment of the special economic zone (SEZ) in Nkomazi to attract investment that would unlock growth and create employment.”It will attract investment in a variety of industries, including the production of agri- chemicals and agro-processing initiatives… To support the proposed infrastructure investment, Nkomazi municipality has made land available for the establishment of the SEZ.”Mabuza said the process for the acquisition and registration of land for the Mpumalanga International Fresh Produce Market had been concluded. “All the necessary statutory compliance matters such as the environmental impact assessments have been finalised.”The fresh produce market was a major infrastructure initiative to support agricultural production and create a logistics platform for the export of fresh produce to international markets. This market would create the required infrastructure and logistics platform to assist vegetable, fruit, citrus and meat production farmers and remove the current barriers to market.Construction of the market would begin in the next financial year, Mabuza said.
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