WWF raises concern about green light for mining in Mabola

An Indian company has been the go-ahead to mine only three years after it was declared a protected environment.

FILE: The Mabola Protected Environment in Mpumalanga is an area of high biodiversity and a strategic water source area. Picture: WWF South Africa.

PRETORIA - A strategic water source near one of South Africa’s most popular birding sites is under threat from an Indian coal mining company.

WWF South Africa says it's deeply concerned that Environment Minister Edna Molewa has signed off an application for coal mining by Atha Africa to go ahead in the Mabola protected environment in Mpumalanga.

"This news comes despite several years of effort during which WWF collaborated extensively with provincial authorities and other stakeholders towards achieving the common goal of the Department of Environmental Affairs’ targets for national protected areas.

"It is therefore puzzling that within 18 months of its declaration, the protections that were afforded to Mabola are now being eroded."

The organisation says the 8,772-hectare Mabola protected environment, which lies about 50km north-east of Wakkerstroom, was declared on 22 January 2014, along with four other wetland areas in Mpumalanga.

Mabola is in a strategic water source area, generating critical water supplies for agricultural, industrial and human use.

WWF South Africa Dr Morné du Plessis says coal mining in strategic water source areas is not only contrary to sound scientific advice, but also to basic common sense.

"These are areas of high biodiversity which are critical for water generation and future economic growth. WWF will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the best interests of society are pursued.”

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)