Farieda Kahn's article in the December 2010 issue of Veld & Flora eloquently argued the case against mining in this most beautiful of places. The Verlorenvlei Coalition has been working hard to prevent such a disaster, and reports back here:
1. Municipality halts prospecting in Moutonshoek
The Verlorenvlei Coalition (VC) welcomes the granting of an interim interdict against Bongani
Minerals (Pty) Ltd. and a local landowner to cease prospecting activities for tungsten in the Moutonshoek Valley.
The interdict, lodged by the Bergrivier Local Municipality and granted in the Cape High Court on Thursday, 22 March 2012, has brought welcome reprieve for concerned residents who believe that prospecting and mining activity will be to the detriment of agriculture, tourism and the environment in the region, specifically the RAMSAR protected Verlorenvlei wetland near Elands Bay.
The respondents indicated that they intend opposing the court action. They have until 13 April to file answering papers. The matter is scheduled to be heard on 23 May.
Summary of events
1 July 2011 – the Department of Mineral Resources issues Bongani Minerals with a controversial right to prospect for among others tungsten, molybdenum and so-called “rare earths” in the Moutonshoek Valley, the main catchment of the Verlorenvlei – a declared RAMSAR wetland and Important Birding Area (IBA) 30 km downstream.
One of the affected farmers, Moutonshoek Investments, appealed the DMR’s decision to grant this prospecting right, highlighting many basic shortcomings in the application, such as errors in technical calculations of drill meterage, questionable proof of financial ability and insufficient provision for rehabilitation. They were supported by the Verlorenvlei Coalition, a grouping of farmers, residents, farmworkers, businesses and environmental groups representing the broader community of Moutonshoek and Verlorenvlei in their struggle against Bongani Minerals’ attempts to establish an open-cast mine in this fertile West Coast valley.
Regardless of its legitimacy, the prospecting right signed by Bongani Minerals’ Director Johannes van der Walt, states that “the granting of the right does not exempt the holder from complying with the relevant provisions of the Mine Health and Safety Act, 1996 (Act no 29 of 1996) and any other relevant law in force in the Republic of South Africa.” [our emphasis]
One such law is the Land Use Planning Ordinance (Ordinance no 15 of 1985), also referred to as “LUPO” which is in effect in the Western Cape and which falls under local government jurisdiction. Although the mining company insists their prospecting right allows them to go ahead with their plans, the drilling is illegal because the farmers in question have not been authorised to rezone their farms as required by LUPO to allow for a land use other than agriculture. According to Bergrivier municipal manager, Christa Liebenberg, the farms are zoned for crop cultivation, animal breeding or the operation of a game farm.
In December 2011 Moutonshoek Investments brought an interdict against the prospecting licence for their property, Portion 1 of Namaquasfontein 297, based on the premise that the land would still need to be rezoned – in this case a consent use or a departure use to allow mining and/or prospecting. A court date must still be finalised.
1 March 2012 - Notwithstanding the LUPO requirement, Bongani Minerals commenced with
prospecting activities on certain farms in the Verlorenvlei area, after two of the landowners – Johannes Coetzee and Herman Coetzee - signed agreements with Bongani Minerals to allow prospecting.
We read with interest in the press that Bongani had been informed by the provincial Department of Environment and Development Planning that prospecting does not fall under the province’s land use planning ordinance. On enquiry the Department had no record of such instruction. More specifically, in terms of law the province would not be the relevant authority to consult in this instance.
Section 156(1) of the National Constitution (Act 108 of 1996) confers on municipalities the “executive authority and right to administer municipal planning” and further “empowers municipalities to make and administer laws for effective municipal planning”, therefore a municipality has the executive authority to promulgate the zoning scheme regulations in terms of Section 9(2) of the Land Use Planning Ordinance no.15 of 1985.
On 22 March the Western Cape High Court granted and interdict brought by the Bergrivier Municipality to restrain the owners of Kromvlei farm and Bongani Minerals (Pty) Ltd. from continuing prospecting work until the case has been heard. The court ordered that drilling work be halted by latest Tuesday 27 March.
2. Verlorenvlei Estuary Management
The VC is actively represented on the Verlorenvlei Estuary Management Forum, under the curatorship of the C.A.P.E. Estuaries Programme which has guided the development of 17 estuary management plans and the establishment of 12 estuary management forums throughout the Cape Floristic Region. The Programme is acting in support of initiatives aimed at developing management plans at a National level in order to protect these estuaries.
3. The contribution you can make to our cause
· Please visit our website www.verlorenvlei.co.za to read related press articles. Find out how you can help and how to join the VC. Membership is free but voluntary donations are very welcome to cover ongoing legal and other costs. Donations can be made to:
Krom Antonie Bewarea
· Write letters to the press.
· Get your friends to join the Coalition.
· Use all available social networks to spread the message. Any information which can underpin our case will be very useful, for example, information about the people who live in the Verlorenvallei, their business enterprises, community initiatives, details of farming activities from the Piket-bo-berg to Elands Bay.
· Follow us on Facebook – group is called “Verlorenvlei”
· Twitter account : Vlei Coalition@vleifriends
link - http://www.twitter.com/vleifriends/