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Relief in Cape as mining plans shelved

Vineyard owners in the Western Cape are celebrating after a state-owned mining company withdrew plans to prospect in the area.

Concerned wineries and their supporters had warned that national pride was at stake over the plans tabled by the African Exploration Mining and Finance Company (AEMFC) to look for tin, zinc and other metals.

The company, which is funded by South Africa’s Central Energy Fund, had applied to prospect for tin, zinc, lead, lithium, copper, manganese and silver in districts including Stellenbosch, Durbanville and Kuils River.

The application was provisionally accepted, prompting a tidal wave of opposition from wine producers, the Cape Winemakers Guild, Wines of South Africa, and the Stellenbosch and Durbanville Wine Routes – as well as wildlife and conservation groups.

The Winelands Action Group was formed, attracting more than 3,000 fans to its Facebook page, and legal action was launched to challenge the plans.

But late on Thursday the AEMFC announced that it was withdrawing its application ‘for strategic business reasons’ following an extensive review process.

Welcoming the decision, Gary Jordan of Jordan Wines said the level of opposition to the plans had been ‘unprecedented’, with thousands of objections lodged in the space of a week and the support of international wine writers, including Jancis Robinson.

‘Relieved – of course,’ he told decanter.com. ‘Angry – yes, immensely. National pride was at stake, not just a few wine estates such as Jordan.

‘Hopefully we can now close an unnecessary chapter of the 2010 Cape vintage – it’s bad enough trying to fight heatwaves and thunderstorms, and the lack of enough tank-space at this time of year, so I’m certainly looking forward to the first 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon this morning.’

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Written by Richard Woodard

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