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Coal miner to preserve S.Africa world heritage site

Published on 01/09/2011

Coal of Africa Limited (CoAL), granted a licence to mine near a South African World Heritage site, on Thursday signed an agreement with environmental authorities to preserve the area.

“We want to set the standard in responsible mining as future mining in the country is likely to increasingly venture into more sensitive areas,” CoAL chief executive John Wallington told Mining Weekly.

“By signing this agreement, the first of its kind, we have effectively raised the bar,” Wallington said.

Last month, the company halted activities at Vele Colliery, near Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape in the northern Limpopo province, after a coalition group launched an appeal against its water-use licence.

The bio-sensitive area is said to have deposits of high-quality coking coal that could be mined for up to 25 years.

“We expect the water use licence ban to be suspended soon so that we can begin work,” CoAL spokesman James Duncan said.

Mapungubwe became South Africa’s fifth World Heritage site in July 2003.

The company signed an agreement with the department of Environmental Affairs and the South African National Parks committing to develop natural heritage conservation, water resources and cultural heritage among other things.

Conservation activists have raised concern that mining could endanger the area and cause it to be delisted as a world heritage site.

“We will defend this heritage and make sure it’s not in danger. We are not yet in danger and so there’s no talk of delisting until further notice,” said Fundisile Mketeni, the director general of bio-diversity and conservation.