A Letter to the Department of Minerals and Energy Dr. Wilhelm Schack is a Wildlife Vet and Ecologist based in the Thabazimbi area. In his capacity as Chairman of the Marakele Park Forum, he has sent the following strong letter (14 June 2011) to the Department of Minerals and Energy.
The Marakele Park Forum at a recent meeting has tasked its executive committee to write a letter to the Department of Minerals and Energy to formally object against the seemingly uncontrolled and unchecked spree of prospecting rights (and also pending prospecting and mining right applications) that have been dished out to various local and foreign companies in the vicinity of the Marakele National Park, the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve and innumerable ecotourism operations and developments that have been established here in the past 20 years as a result of profound strategic studies, Spatial Development Frameworks, EnvironmentalManagement Frameworks, etc etc.
The DME is the one government department which has turned a blind eye on all the tremendous efforts by officials from other government departments (like Environmental Affairs and Agriculture) semistatal institutions like SANParks, private individuals, local communities, etc, who all have assisted and contributed towards a long term landuse program in this part of the Limpopo Province thrashed out in endless and democratically inclusive meetings and workshops to enable society to find amicable 'live-and-let-live solutions' for local industries and landuse patterns that are diametrically opposed to each other in their inherent character (in this case mining vs conservation and ecotourism). Limitations and boundary and zonation lines have been scientifically researched, agreed upon and are currently meticulously defined and documented by relevant institutions and authorities (including government, see attached Draft Policy on BufferZones for National Parks)
It becomes apparent that the DME with its seemingly blind and community insensitive approach in allowing blanket mining related applications to be granted over fast tracts of highly sensitive land, is standing isolated in the South African social landscape.
In view of the fact that the conservation, ecotourism and game ranching industry has up to present invested billions of rands in establishing viable, sustainable, ecologically acceptable, community uplifting and already thriving enterprises in the mentioned area, the mining industry, as well as the Department of Minerals and Energy are well advised to take heed of the warning that they can expect serious resistance from this sector. The eco-industry, a most important generator of revenue and creator of a livliehood for millions of South Africans, has everything to lose if unchecked mining activities are allowed to spoil the character of the land and thereby the future of its cause. Currently the most palpable threat to the eco-industry in the vicinity of the Marakele National Park and the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, is the pending Aquila Steel mining right application on Meletse Mountain. (Incidentally, the mountain is also home to sacred caves in the traditions of the local black community.) Should this mining right be granted by DME and a mine be established so close to the park, the ambience of the whole region will be destroyed, the local eco-economy threatened or destroyed, the sacred caves threatened or destroyed, and the whole community left poorer than ever before.
My request is that this communication to you all is taken very seriously. We cannot allow haphazard juggling with the future of our children, the future of our industry and the future of our land.
May I also invite comments from you all. This issue is now on the table, and if we want to stay true to our hard earned democratic principles, we have to speak out loud and clear.