Coal of Africa agreement signed

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pretoria - The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South African National Parks (SanParks) and Coal of Africa today signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will see the three parties working together with regards to mining next to the Mapungubwe world heritage site in Limpopo.

The agreement was signed in accordance with section 24G of the National Environmental Management Act.

Coal of Africa is involved in mining activities next to Mapungubwe.

The Department of Environmental Affairs and SanParks will be monitoring closely and ensuring that Coal of Africa adheres to the regulations agreed upon.

As part of the agreement, the integrity of the world heritage site will be maintained through "comprehensive biodiversity offsets programmes, thereby optimising benefits to local communities."

Coal of Africa was forced to stop activities at the Vele site in Limpopo last year, following non-compliance with the National Environmental Management Act. Last month, the department granted the company approval to restart construction and operations in line with activities that had been approved by the department.

Singing the MoU on behalf of government, Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Deputy Director-General, Fundisile Mketeni, said his department will ensure that the parties adhere to the agreement.

"Government has a responsibility to ensure that compliance is adhered to," he said.
With regard to the heritage site, Mketeni said government will defend it and ensure that it is not in danger.

Coal of Africa CEO, John Wallington, said through the agreement, they seek to increase economic growth.

"This agreement is a declaration of intent with the goal of creating and developing a sustainable model of co-existence which should set new and more inclusive standards to be aspired to," he said, adding that mining plays a major role in job creation.

Wallington said with the help of the government and SanParks, they will seek to be pioneers in finding the right balance between conservation and economic development. 

"We have a responsibility to protect the natural and cultural richness of the Heritage Site, whilst substantially increasing the size of the economy and thereby creating jobs that our country desperately requires," he said.

According to the agreement, the parties will promote alliances in the management of natural and cultural resources, ensure compliance with the provisions of the agreement, encourage social, economic and other partnerships among stakeholders.

This will also include promoting integrated planning, research, education, awareness and capacity-building, collaborating in formulating detailed biodiversity offsets programmes and implementation plans and providing adequate financial, human and other resources for effective implementation of the agreement.

South African National Parks' Hector Magome said they will ensure that Mapungubwe is well preserved.

"It is our mandate to preserve and protect and to ensure wise use of natural resources," he said.
According to Magome, SanParks manages about four million hectares of parks in the country.

Regarding the detailed biodiversity offsets programmes to be developed, the agreement states that the programmes will be underpinned by, amongst others, natural heritage conservation, cultural heritage conservation, tourism development and water resource management. - BuaNews

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