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Thread: The conflict between mining, the environment, agriculture and tourism.

  1. #1
    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    The conflict between mining, the environment, agriculture and tourism.

    Competition as to what has priority is hotting up when it comes to deciding what activities should be allocated to a given area.

    I thought this article, which prompted me to think about this conflict of interest, would be a good place to start exploring the issues.
    A court case opening on Tuesday is expected to expose the conflict within the South African government as it battles to balance the demands of mining expansion and environmental protection.

    Billions of rands are at stake as the government awards huge mining licences while it is accused by communities and environment groups of putting several animal species and ecosystems under threat.

    Mpumalanga Lake District Protection Group (MLDPG) has launched a landmark bid to stop a proposed open-cast coal mine in the Lake District in Mpumalanga in the east of the country. The application is to be heard in the Pretoria High Court from Tuesday.

    "The social and environmental-impact costs coming with the mining will be high and will only be evident when the mining is over," said MLDPG chairperson Koos Pretorius.

    The court case is expected to highlight conflicts between the Department of Minerals and Energy and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

    Environmental department spokesperson Blessing Manale said existing legislation left the department's "hands tied" and gave its counterpart free reign "to own mining rights and regulate its own environmental impact".

    "We have a situation in the country where, once the prospecting licence has been granted, the mining department is allowed to handle its own environmental impact assessment without our involvement," said Manale.

    Environmentalists and community members accuse authorities of irregularities in awarding licences and of not taking environmental obligations seriously.

    Pretorius, a farmer, said licence applications were pending for mining or prospecting on about 80% of land in the Mpumalanga escarpment area, raising fears that no agriculture or tourism would soon be left.
    full story from M&G here
    My first thought is - Do we really have the luxury of not mining these resources?
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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    A couple of ideas to think about....

    "The social and environmental-impact costs coming with the mining will be high and will only be evident when the mining is over," said MLDPG chairperson Koos Pretorius.
    So one thing we can note is that mining has a start and a finish. At some point the mine is depleted to the level where it is not economically viable to continue. What happens to these communities and lands then? What are the time frames? What do they fall back on?

    The other thing to think about is the impact on agricultural land. I'm not sure about the extent of this, but how does that impact on food supply etc? What are the "unintended consequences" of this type of action?

    There are probably ways of mining that have a lower impact on the area, but invariably these are more expensive. I have no idea where the breakpoint is.

    I agree Dave, there is probably the need to mine these resources, but we also have to figure out what the real reasons and impact are. Is the landscape being raped to export coal? If so, does that create broader wealth? Who is adding value to the minerals — us or another country? What options have the longest implications on wealth creation?

    It is a tricky one. SA has traditionally been a large resource exporter — are there valid reasons to build heavily on that?
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    Email problem stephanfx's Avatar
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    IMO, mines are greedy and environmental issues should be given priority over money making mining. but, then again, that is just me.

    The thing that bothers me about the mining is what does it do to the soil, if it does have an end, what use is it? Can one farm on it, or maybe just good enough to build on, or maybe relocate a piece of the environment back that was there before the mines.

    Anyway, it would be interesting to see this unfold.

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    Email problem RKS Computer Solutions's Avatar
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    In Europe and America, basically most 1st World countries, whenever an application is given in for the erection of a major structure, whether it be mines/buildings/whatever the application needs to be handed in with a proposal for ecological studies to be done before, during and after the construction and/or time the building is erect.

    The proposal should not only bring viable studies into effect, but also has the policies included for which, if a structure/building causes any detrimental effect to the environment, that the owner will be punished. Also in the policies, they have made provisions for the after effect, ie. should the building/mine reach the end of its lifeline, the owner have a legal obligation towards ensuring that the areas surrounding it is brought back ecologically to a good standard, similar to the state in which it was before the start of the project...

    That seems a good way to ensure that our heritage stays for more than only our current or next generations...

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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    AFAIK all major building in SA also requires an environmental impact study — this was one of the reasons for the delay with Cape Town 2010 stadium. I'm just not sure of where in the mining process that study occurs.
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    Email problem stephanfx's Avatar
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    Does it even occur? The DOEA&T stated the DOEM have there own set of rules for this, and this is exactly where the problem lies, IMO. The DOEM should not be able to handle environmental affairs at all, but rather submit a report and/or study to the DOEA&T.

    Also, isn't there something where it is stated that at any time only X amount of land can be used for whatever? If not, should there not be one? From all experiences, I think that we should have realized that nature is a fragile thing and to destroy to much of it for mining/building might leave our world in an unrecoverable state.

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