CoAL gets green light

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pretoria - The controversial Australian mining company, Coal of Africa (CoAL), will very soon resume certain mining activities at its Vele Colliery project in Limpopo.

Coal of Africa is involved in coal mining activities 7km from the Mapungubwe world heritage site, outside Musina in Limpopo.

The mining company had illegally commenced with mining activities without environmental authorisation, contravening the National Environment Management Act (NEMA).

The Department of Environmental Affairs intervened by issuing the company with a compliance notice. This halted all the activities at the site and CoAL paid close to R10 million in administrative fines to the department.

However, the application to rectify the unlawful commencement of listed activities, in terms of section 24G of the NEMA, was lodged last year in September.

On Wednesday, the department confirmed that it granted CoAL environmental authorisation in respect of section 24G for the rectification of certain activities at Vele Colliery.

Briefing reporters in Pretoria, the department's Deputy Director-General Ishaam Abader said the department granted the environmental authorisation to the mining company on 5 July.

He further said the department is satisfied on the basis of information available to it and subject to compliance with the conditions of the environmental authorisation.

The granted rectified activities are:
* Construction of facilities or associated structures in the one in ten year flood line of a river within 32 metres from the bank of a river;
* Removal of indigenous vegetation of three hectares of any size where the removal would occur within a critically endangered ecosystem in terms of section 52 of Biodiversity Act of 2004;
* The construction of a road that is wider than four metres;
* Upgrading of the current mine access road and the associated construction of culverts;
* Construction of a slurry dam facility at the associated processing plant area, to mention but a few.

According to Abader, the authorisation came with conditions. "This activity shall resume within a period of one month from the date of issue unless directed otherwise.

"If resumption of the activity does not occur within that period, the authorisation lapses and a new application for environmental authorisation shall be made in order for the activity to resume."

As part of monitoring, CoAL will appoint a suitably experienced independent environmental control officer for the construction, operational and decommissioning phases for the development that will have the responsibility of ensuring that recommendations of the authorisation are implemented.

Again, the appointment of the Independent Environmental Control Officer must be done before resumption of any authorised activity.

Three types of products envisaged at this mine are coking coal as well as two types of middling products ('c' grade coal and power station coal).

Coking coal will be marketed mainly within the country, but with a portion of the production exported through the port of Maputo in Mozambique.

When a market is developed for the middling products, the material will be exported in part or in its entirety via road, rail or conveyors.