Centre for Environmental Rights: South Africa Constitutional Court Rules against Coal Mining in Mpumalanga Protected Area

Originally published here on 18 NOVEMBER 2019 AT 9:52 AM

The Constitutional Court has had the final say on the approvals for a coal mine inside an Mpumalanga Protected Area and Strategic Water Source Area. Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court refused the mining company’s final challenge of a 2018 High Court decision to set aside Ministerial approvals for the proposal coal mine.

The Mabola Protected Environment near Wakkerstroom, is part of more than 70 000 hectares of grasslands in Mpumalanga, that was declared protected under the Protected Areas Act by the Mpumalanga provincial government in 2014. This followed years of investment, including extensive research and planning by a number of government agencies, including the then Department of Environmental Affairs, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency.

South Africa has 22 Strategic Water Source Areas (SWSAs) which comprise 10% of the land area that produces 50% of the country’s fresh water. They supply water to South Africa’s largest urban centres, agricultural areas and support downstream economies and ecosystems. The Enkangala-Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area specifically supports the economic hub of Gauteng as well as various towns and agricultural regions in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.

Atha-Africa Ventures (Pty) Ltd (Atha) was granted a mining right for coal after this area had been identified as a SWSA and after the Mabola Protected Environment (Mabola) was declared. Alarmingly, after the mining right was granted, the various government departments responsible for the environment and our water resources issued the other authorisations Atha requires for its proposed mine.

This is why a civil society coalition went to court to defend the area from proposed new coal mining.  

Credit Mabola3

In November 2018, the Pretoria High Court set aside the 2016 decisions of the then Ministers of Mineral Resources and Environmental Affairs, Mosebenzi Zwane and Edna Molewa, to permit this new coal mine to be developed inside Mabola, with a punitive costs order against the Ministers and the MEC for Environment in Mpumalanga.

Mining company Atha attempted four times to challenge that judgment. The Constitutional Court was the mining company’s last hope. The civil society coalition defending Mabola was obliged to oppose all of those challenges and is delighted that the 2018 judgment remains intact. The Constitutional Court also awarded costs against the company.

“This is a significant victory. Our courts continue to recognise the importance of the protection of the environment, and our strategic water resources, especially at a time when we are already suffering the impacts of climate change. Decisions to authorise coal mines should be critically scrutinised and questioned.”

Elton Thobejane, Chairperson of Coalition member the Mining and Environmental Justice Communities Network of South Africa (MEJCON-SA).

For further reading, link to original article here; more importantly, check this article by GroundUp for an in-depth understanding of why these civil societies must remain incredibly vigilant. South African Ministers change their minds frequently and will refile (in this case: 3 months apart!) to re-open a protected area again for mining permits.

Why cannot good laws punishing erratic filings be enacted against a government official in their work capacity? #stopgovcorruption

NOTES TO EDITOR
Pretoria High Court judgment of November 2018. More information about the importance of legal protection for Strategic Water Source Areas. More information about the civil society campaign to defend the Mabola Protected Environment

Four in Five EU Coal Plants Unprofitable — Carbon Tracker Initiative October 2019 Report

LONDON – Four in five EU coal power plants are unprofitable and utilities could lose €6.6 billion this year alone, finds a new report from financial think tank Carbon Tracker.

Originally published 24 October 2019 here; contact information below at end of post.

Coal plant
The majority of coal plants in the European Union (EU) could face losses of nearly €6.6 billion
this year, according to the Carbon Tracker Initiative report.

Read moreThe eco-warriors of climate protection

It warns investors and policymakers to prepare for a complete phase-out of coal by 2030, because without heavy subsidies the industry will not survive sustained competition from ever lower cost wind and solar power and temporarily cheap gas.

Governments will face “intractable problems” if they seek to support coal in the long-term because they will have to choose whether to: pass costs to the utilities and destroy shareholder value; pass costs to consumers and push bills up; or fund them from debt or taxes.

Matt Gray, Head of Power & Utilities at Carbon Tracker and co-author of the report, said:

“EU coal generators are haemorrhaging cash because they cannot compete with ever-cheaper renewables and gas and this will only get worse. Policymakers and investors should prepare to phase out coal by 2030 at the latest.”

Carbon Tracker used asset-level financial models to analyse the operating economics of every coal plant in the EU and the losses they face in 2019. It found that:

  • Germany’s lignite and hard coal plants could lose €9 billion, yet the country’s coal commission has only recommended a 2038 deadline for phasing out coal.
  • Spain and the Czech Republic, which have yet to set a phase-out date, face losses of €992 million and €899 million respectively. In the UK, which has set a 2025 deadline, its remaining coal plants will lose €732 million.
  • Germany’s RWE is the utility facing the greatest losses – it could haemorrhage €975 million, 6% of its market capitalisation. EPH, with assets mainly in Germany and the Czech Republic, could lose €613 million, and PPC, in Greece, could lose €596 million.

This year EU hard coal generation has fallen 39% since 2018, resulting in “eye-wateringly low utilisation rates” while lignite generation is down 20%. Carbon Tracker calculates that overall 84% of lignite generation and 76% of hard coal generation is unprofitable, facing 2019 losses of €3.54 billion and €3.03 billion respectively. Across the EU 79% of coal plants are running at a loss.

For further reading, link to original article here.

To arrange interviews please contact:

Joel Benjamin            jbenjamin@carbontracker.org             +447429 637423

David Mason             david.mason@greenhousepr.co.uk      +44 7799 072320

About Carbon Tracker

The Carbon Tracker Initiative is a not-for-profit financial think tank that seeks to promote a climate-secure global energy market by aligning capital markets with climate reality.

Their research to date on the carbon bubble unburnable carbon and stranded assets has begun a new debate on how to align the financial system with the energy transition to a low carbon future. www.carbontracker.org

Save Our Wilderness: uMfolozi Municipality Spatial Development Framework Indicates Mining at Fuleni by iButho Coal Taken as Given

6 September 2019; Originally published by Save Our Wilderness on 5 September (link here).

Picture credit and additional information: Map 18: Mining Areas indicates that the most potential mining land within the municipality is along the coast where most of the illegal and legal mining activities occur. Furthermore, the far western portion of the municipality, (within wards 17, 12 and 13) is dominated by coal mining activities. Currently iButho Coal mining has undergone negotiations to propose an open cast mine on the boundary of iMfolozi Wilderness Area.

The final Spatial Development Framework for the uMfolozi Municipality has been released. 

The uMfolozi Municipality stretches from the southern borders of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park to the coast. Map 18 on mining areas shows the area identified for coal mining running along the southern border of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.

Especially problematic is the following paragraph, from page 102 of the Spatial Development Framework:

The Fuleni area consists of large exploitable anthracite deposits which fall under the Fuleni Coal Mine project by iButho Coal. iButho Coal has undertaken an environmental assessment as part of the pre-feasibility study, and are still set to conduct further environmental assessments once they attain the mining licence for the area. In order for the mining operations to commence, one river will be blocked for the use of the mine and certain households will be relocated for safety reasons.

[Italics added for emphasis]

It is clear that the Municipality has endorsed iButho Coal’s mining application even though the Department of Mineral Resources had rejected iButho Coal’s application on grounds that they cannot adequately mitigate the impacts their mine would have on the iMfolozi Wilderness area.

iButho Coal is currently appealing this decision.

uMfolozi-Final-SDFDownload

Call to Action:

Make a difference! Donate below or become involved, on our You Versus page here.

The Crowd vs. Destructive Mining in Zululand

Coal companies and the South African government have to stop with coal mining that puts Zululand and its people in danger and threatens the world’s greatest concentration of rhinos in the wilderness area of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve.  Read more …

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Additional Affidavits Filed in Application to Review Tendele Mine in South Africa

Friday 31 May 2019 was an important day for the case supported by The Crowd vs. Destructive Mining in Zululand. Attorney Kirsten Youens, and second Applicant and Treasurer of the community organization, MCEJO (the first Applicant), Sabelo Dladla, filed supplementary founding affidavits in the application to review and set aside at 222 square km mining right for open cast coal. 

Call to Action:

Kirsten Youens shares special moments with you, while working on the case. Do you want to know more about it, or support her legal battle?

Check out her case page on our website, here.

Ms. Kirsten Youens, attorney, and MCEJO representative, Mr. Sabelo Dladla

#lawyerinthepicture #lawapplies2all #coalkills #biodiversity #wildlife #rhino #SouthAfrica #behindthescenes #stopcoalmining #climateaction #humanrights #environmentalrights #law #big5 #nature #iMfolozi #saveouriMfolozi #coalmining

Multi-Award Winning Documentary Highlights the Mining Threat to iMfolozi: Sisters of the Wilderness

THIS SOCIAL IMPACT DOCUMENTARY ‘SISTERS OF THE WILDERNESS’ WON BEST SOUTH AFRICAN FEATURE DOCUMENTARY AT THE DURBAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL AND QUALIFIES FOR THE OSCARS.

The film is mostly set in the iMfolozi wilderness area, within the oldest proclaimed game reserve in Africa and one of the fast disappearing pockets of wilderness where wild nature can be experienced at its purest form.

Since time immemorial this sanctuary has maintained its raw wildness. Here an ageless spirit survives and one can sense a spiritual connection to the land. The iMfolozi valley was the heartland of the Zulu people who lived here in harmony with nature and with great respect (inhlonipho) to Mother Earth and all creation.

This wilderness acts as the main character in the film. Into this wilderness a group of young Zulu women enters on a life-changing journey to experience true wild nature for the first time in their lives.

The young women, mostly from townships and semi-rural communities, aspire to elevate themselves beyond challenging life conditions. They have an interest in nature and a spark of leadership but they lack the opportunity to experience wild nature in their impoverished lives. Accompanied by veteran female wilderness guides, they camp under the stars in big game country, totally surrounded by wild animals such as elephants, rhinos and lions. Exposed to the elements and carrying on their back all they need for the journey, they have to cope with emotional and physical challenges, and learn what it takes to survive in the wild.

A wilderness journey is an intense experience where one can expect to undergo personal transformation. It can enhance personal growth and leadership development; and it is also a soulful experience that has the capacity to heal. The solitary night watch where one is responsible for the entire camp, the solitude contemplation sessions and the possible close encounters with wild animals like a charging rhino, an elephant ambling next to the camp at night, the yellow eyes of a wild cat in the dark of the night, all contribute to enhance one’s sense of connection to nature and encourage self-introspection.

The latter especially occurs whilst one sits around the campfire, listening to the lively Zululand wilderness night, hearing the cough of the leopard, the cry of the hyena or the roar of the lion.

Mentoring the women and initiating them into the wilderness is, KwaMashu born, Lihle Mbokazi, the first black South African woman wilderness guide. Lihle is also deeply interested in reviving indigenous knowledge systems and share the wisdom of the old days with the young women. Along with Lihle we also see Janet and Zondi, the lead wilderness guides, who share nature wisdom with the women.

Long periods of Nature’s ambient sounds help the audience to connect with wilderness and when interweaved with the soulful music of film composer, Ian Arber, transports one into the same inner world of connectivity that nature takes one on.

Link to SistersOfTheWilderness.com for a short trailer.

Despite the tranquil setting, the iMfolozi wilderness is now severely threatened.

An existing open-cast coal mine on the Eastern border of the wilderness is expanding regardless of its devastating impact on the surrounding rural communities and their livestock.

Additionally, a proposed coal mine just 40 metres from the park’s southern boundary threatens to devastate even further this fragile nature gem and the communities.

The park is home to incredibly important populations of both white and black rhino. It is renowned worldwide for being the historical home of the Southern White Rhino, following the successful ‘Operation Rhino’ in the 1960’s driven largely by the park’s then-warden, Ian Player.

Dr. Player’s efforts brought the rhinos back from the brink of extinction. The park now has the largest population of Southern White Rhino in the world.

The success of this program has recently been compromised by a gruesome increase in rhino poaching within the park. This critical threat has not only become a great concern for the park, but for rhino conservationists worldwide.

Link to SaveOurWilderness.org for additional blogs and information about Dr. Player.

Call to action:

At THE CROWD VERSUS we can also use your help. We crowdfund for the litigation pending to stop the permitting of open cast coal mining, or the expansion of older, already present mines (Tendele).

We have several options to create the level of your involvement. You can donate or become personally involved by writing a blog, taking photographs, or entertaining friends with a dinner at home.

We look forward to seeing your ideas!