Michele du Plessis
The draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Proposed Transvaal Gold Mining Estates (TGME) Development Project in terms of Premined Residue and Hard Rock Mining near Sabie, Mpumalanga Province, was released on November 3rd.
In light of this EIA, several disturbing issues were discussed at the recent Sabie Chamber of Commerce and Tourism feedback meeting held at the Sabie Country Club on November 29th.
“We’ve had ongoing meetings with Batho Earth and Globesight Environmental Impact Assessments. Arising out of that and first meeting, a list of questions was sent to Batho Earth, requesting specialist responses on the pertinent issues raised,” Captain Gwilym Rees, Chairman of SCCT said.
Questions arising from the meetings and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) documents include water, roads, traffic, noise pollution and the impact on tourism.
“There is virtually nothing in EIA that addresses the impact on tourism in any significant way, and that is a great concern to us in this area, as well as the impact further up the Panorama route,” Captain Rees said.
The upper Blyde and Sabie River Catchment areas are classified as Class 1 Water Resources. That means that the ecological integrity should be properly preserved and managed. Minimal development is allowed to ensure this. Evidence collected by the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation that previous mining activities still impacts on the Blyde River as there are elevated arsenic levels present.
“If the Sabie River is affected by the proposed mining activities, it will have a ripple effect all the way to Mozambique. The EIA people say that the mine will take mitigating action, involving an early warning system and a monitoring system, both of which are reactive. What does that help Sabie when our water supply is immediately contaminated when it comes from the drainage tunnel, to the reservoirs and pumps and into our taps? TGME has said that they will give us a new water source from higher up. But we have seen no plans that they will develop this before mining starts,” Captain Rees said.
There will be an increase in the number of heavy vehicles on the local roads and through residential areas such as Sabie and the impact of heavy vehicles on the road surface. “Concerning the road network, the traffic specialist has suggested that our roads, surrounding Sabie, will be used by the trucks and also right through the centre of our town. There are alternative routes that should be used,” Captain Rees said. Other relevant issues raised are the dust and noise pollution due to the heavy vehicles and mining activities.
There are concerns about the safety and security, due to the influx of workers, job seekers and illegal miners, the impact on the Harmony Hill township development, hospitals and clinics. “There is no social plan concerning the influx from 4000 to 6000 people. Electricity supply and infrastructure will be acerbated by all this,” Captain Rees continued.
“We need them to act on this. I was told by Globesight that we cannot lodge objections until the applications have been approved. That is a not true, as I discovered. We need to lodge objection now! The task team (a group of concerned Sabie residents) has decided to, on behalf of the community of Sabie, to lodge two objections with regards to the potential of contamination of our water and also the traffic impact, with more to follow,” Captain Rees concluded.