Fly-fishers angling to take on the Minister

Catching trout in Dullstroom region might be seriously threatened if the Centre for Environmental Rights and activists' appeals are unsuccessful against a mining company.

DULLSTROOM – Environmental activists and the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) fear that the Elands and Crocodile rivers and the area’s trout farms will be polluted by an opencast coal mine. They are going to approach the High Court for an interdict to stop the development, adjacent to a protected area, this coming week.

An area adjacent to the proposed mine was declared the Greater Lakenvlei Protected Environment (GLPE) this month , by the Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture, in recognition of the area’s significant biodiversity.

“The company lacks various statutory authorisations required for its lawful conduct of mining and preparations for mining, including environmental authorisation in terms of the National Environmental Management Act,” said
Ms Suzanne Powell, CER attorney.

The area is ecologically sensitive. It is a source of the Elands River which flows into the Crocodile River. It borders the Lakenvlei wetland. The dams, which include a number of well-known trout destinations and draw thousands of fishermen a year like Wessel Cohrs (pictured), will be detrimentally affected if the mining goes ahead.

“WPB Colliery was granted the mining rights by the DMR in December 2012, despite the fact that the mining will cause unacceptable damage to the environment in contravention of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act,” explained Powell. “Accordingly, our clients appealed the grant of the mining right.”

In October 2015 the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) gave the mining company a water-use licence (WUL). This was also appealed by the activists. Both appeals are awaiting resolution by the Water Tribunal. However, the submission of these appeals suspended the WUL.

The 14 000-hectare area in the southern portion of the Dullstroom plateau, or Steenkampsberg, comprises mainly grassland and wetland. It harbours three of South Africa’s threatened cranes as well as critically endangered white-winged flufftails. Vegetation- and tree-clearing operations are being done in preparation for the development of the mine.

“WPB Colliery was granted the mining rights by the DMR in December 2012, despite the fact that the mining will cause unacceptable damage to the environment in contravention of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act,” explained Powell. “Accordingly, our clients appealed the grant of the mining right.”

In October 2015 the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) gave the mining company a water-use licence (WUL). This was also appealed by the activists. Both appeals are awaiting resolution by the Water Tribunal. However, the submission of these appeals suspended the WUL.

“The recession has hit the fly-fishing venues hard. The impact of mining would further devastate the tourism industry,” said Mr Peter Arderne of the Federation of Southern Africa Flyfishers.

  • WPB Colliery did not want to comment on the issue. DMR and DWS did not respond to the newspaper’s questions at the time of going to press.
  AUTHOR
Elize Parker
Environmental Journalist Lowvelder

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