West Coast phosphate mine interdicted to stop drawing fossil water

2017-10-12 06:30 - Don Pinnock
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Picture: Screen crab

Cape Town - A dodgy phosphate operation mining bordering the West Coast National Park and near the environmentally sensitive Langebaan Lagoon has been slapped with an interdict to stop it dewatering the Elandsfontein aquifer.

Mining by Kropz Elandsfontein cuts through a biodiverse and climate-change-resilient corridor which was earmarked for inclusion in the West Coast National Park. As part of a long legal fight by environmental organisations in the area, the mine’s right to use the aquifer was automatically suspended when an appeal was lodged with the Water Tribunal, but it did not stop water off-take.

According to Walter Anderson at Cullinans and Associates, who lodged the appeal on behalf of the West Coast Environmental Protection Association (WCEPA), Kropz continues to dewater the aquifer despite knowledge that commencement of the appeal suspends its water licence and despite not having challenged the validity of the appeal in the tribunal or court.

"Kropz’s wilful and unlawful flouting of the principle of legality leaves WCEPA with no option but to approach the courts for urgent relief in the public interest," says Anderson

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The aquifer is millions of years old and the impact of mining was not properly assesed by the mine before it began operations. There is concern that dewatering by the mine will affect Langebaan Lagoon, a Ramsar site and wetland of international importance, a tourist attraction and a water body on which many fishers depend.

Kropz managed to obtain a mining right in 2015 and was granted a water use license in 2017. The mining right is now subject to judicial review in the Cape High Court, and the water use license is currently under appeal to the Water Tribunal and is therefore suspended under the National Water Act.

This makes the mine’s dewatering and artificial recharging of the aquifer unlawful and a criminal offence under the National Water Act and National Environmental Management Act.

WCEPA’s urgent application follows the recent discovery that Kropz had approached the Department of Mineral Resources to request that its mining right be extended to include deposits in the National Park. Given that it is illegal to mine in a national park, the request effectively amounts to a request to have part of the park deproclaimed in order to extend its operations there.

(Source: Conservation Action Trust)

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