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South African government contests Western Cape mining veto

The South African government is appealing against a Supreme Court decision allowing Western Cape local authorities to forbid mining in their regions.

Klein Welmoed Farm: fighting mining application

Mineral Resources minister Susan Shabangu is contesting the right of the authorities in Cape Town and Swartland to block mining rights granted by her department.

The authorities refused to change the land use classification for the affected areas, thus disallowing any mining.

The South African state-owned mining company, African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation, submitted a series of prospecting right applications in January last year, which if granted would have affected prime winelands properties like De Grendel Estate, Zewenwacht Estate, Mooiplaas Estate and Jordan Wines.

The government Department of Mineral Resources decides on all mining or prospecting applications, but a legal loophole in the Western Cape gives the local authority, the third tier of government, the right of veto.

This veto, and a campaign condemning AEMFC’s application, driven by Gary Jordan of Jordan Wines, led the department to decline to approve the applications, which were eventually withdrawn.

Shabangu is now contesting two recent Supreme Court of Appeal judgements, handed down in early October, which upheld the local veto power.

She believes the bottom tier of government should not be able to overrule a national government decision. No court date has yet been set.

Jordan maintains that unless the court upholds judgements, the threat of Winelands mining won’t go away.

‘The local authority is best equipped to rule on the land use question, not national government,’ he said. ‘Local government officials are in touch with the needs and aspirations of the communities they serve, whereas national Government is not.’

A mining right application was recently lodged for an 80ha portion of Klein Welmoed Farm near Stellenbosch, which produces wine under the Usana label.

The Winshaw family which owns the farm is fighting the application, but is holding out hope that the Supreme Court judgements will be upheld.

‘Some of our vineyards will be affected, and we have a comprehensive plan to develop the rest of the 80ha of land for which a mining right is sought,’ said Pierre Winshaw. ‘We will fight this all the way even if the judgements are overturned.’

Speaking from London this week, Vergelegen Estate managing director Don Tooth said, ‘It’s not just about the vineyards. The rich diversity of the Cape Winelands must be protected against exploitation.’

Tooth pointed out that Vergelegen is owned by a mining conglomerate, Anglo American Farms, which ‘is engaged in the biggest program in the Cape Winelands for the restoration and preservation of Cape Fynbos flora species, on Vergelegen Estate. Despite the fact that Vergelegen is owned by a mining conglomerate, we will vigorously oppose any applications for prospecting or mining rights on the estate.’

Decanter.com has not been able to contact AEMFC or its CEO Sizwe Madondo.

Written by Norman McFarlane in Cape Town, and Adam Lechmere

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