Michele du Plessis
GPS News asked Captain Gwilym Rees, Chairman of the Sabie Ratepayers Association (SRA), for comment on the proposed Stonewall Mining Projects in the Sabie-Pilgrim’s Rest area. Captain Rees responded in his private capacity to questions asked. His opinion is not necessarily the same as the Sabie Chambers of Commerce and Tourism (SCCT) nor the SRA as he cannot speak on their behalf without their mandate.
“The article, “A mine in the drinking water” hits at the core of the potential environmental issue here in Sabie,” Captain Rees said.
“Monitor groundwater quality at possible contaminant sources such as waste rock dumps and tailings facilities. Water intersected underground and water emanating from adits should also be monitored for volume and quality. Monitor groundwater levels in areas where water inflow into the mine workings can potentially lower the regional groundwater levels.”*
“I understand from the EIA that the mine drainage and operations could potentially lower Sabie’s (and surrounding areas’) water table by as much as 45 metres! Can you imagine the devastating effect on our surrounding forests, the life-blood of our area?
I understand (but cannot corroborate) that the contamination and lack of rehabilitation of the Elandsdrift Heap Leach Pad are in our Courts. This casts some doubt on the mine’s ability to responsibly rehabilitate.”
“Groundwater could be directly affected through underground mining. Furthermore, if any oil and fuel spillages occur during these scenarios and activities, then groundwater will be directly contaminated. Similarly, hazardous surface spillages will seep into the underlying aquifers and contaminate groundwater. Improper handling of hazardous material will cause contamination of nearby surface water resources (watercourses) during runoff episodes.”*
“There has been no concrete guarantee that Sabie’s water supply will not be affected by mining activities in our area. At best, some very vague statement has been made that our water will be monitored and corrective action taken in the event of contamination – totally reactive; by which time we are already drinking the contaminated water. This is irresponsible.
There is no mention of the negative effect of mining on the Sabie River (currently one of South Africa’s most pristine rivers) downstream, through Lowveld farming area, through the Kruger National Park, all the way to Mozambique.
Until mining can be guaranteed not to damage our pristine environment not only around Sabie but in the entire area, including catchments, I have to question why we need mining (a relatively short-term industry with little, if any long-term benefits to anyone except the shareholders) instead of forestry and tourism (both sustainable long-term industries) with huge growth potential in our area. In my opinion, the funds spent on mining could be put to better use to grow the forestry and tourism industries in our area and thereby improve our economy in the long term, for all stakeholders,” Captain Rees concluded.
*Information is taken from FINAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT REPORT and DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT PROGRAMME REPORT FOR THE PROPOSED “TGME MINE DEVELOPMENT PROJECT (10161)”: GOLD MINING PROJECT IN TERMS OF PRE-MINED RESIDUE AND HARD ROCK MINING NEAR SABIE, MPUMALANGA PROVINCE PREPARED FOR TRANSVAAL GOLD MINING ESTATES (Pty) Limited. COMPILED BY: Globesight (Pty) Ltd.