This section of the website is dedicated to the protection of a valuable wetland and ecologically sensitive area next to the Vaal River in South Africa.
SASOL, a large South African petrochemical conglomerate, intends opencast coalmining on the banks of the Vaal River in the wetland and a proclaimed nature reserve, an ecologically sensitive area. South Africa is a waterpoor country and all water resources are extremely important. The Vaal River supplies water to a large area of the country from the industrial and financial heartland of the country - Johannesburg and Gauteng - to the farming areas of the Free State and Western Cape Province.
The life of the mine will be only twenty years during which time SASOL will totally destroy the wetland and thereafter SASOL will revegetate (not rehabilitate) the area and leave a large pan of highly polluted water forever.
1. SAVE is an association of concerned people who wish to protect and maintain the integrity and ecology of the Vaal River and its environs in the short and the long term.
2. SAVE was formed in response to Sasol's proposed development of an open cast strip mine astride the Rietspruit and its 1800ha wetland. This mine, were it to eventuate, would have the following effects:-
2.1. An initial "box-cut" some 3km long parallel to, and in places only 350 m from the Vaal itself. It will be 65m deep, exposing an enormous area of coal and coal dust with the attendant pollution hazards.
2.2. The diversion of the Rietspruit, the only unpolluted tributary on this part of the Vaal that currently contributes 2 million cubic meters of pure water per annum to this vital riverine system.
2.3. The complete destruction of the wetland where it joins the river and total disruption of the sub-surface rock and water regimes that formed naturally over millions of years.
2.4. The eradication of natural habitat that currently supports 237 bird and 20 mammal species.
2.5. Continuous mining and movement of heavy machinery for the next twenty years which will drastically lower property prices and impact severely on tourism to this area.
2.6. Sasol have approached the landowners to the west of the proposed mine (Rivierplaats and Fraaiuitsight) for prospecting purposes. The obvious intent to mine this further area would increase this proposed mine one and a half times in size and bring it much closer to the Barrage.
We have initiated a multi-disciplinary approach to the problem and have researched vast amounts of information. A few key issues have come to the fore:-
3.1. LEGAL POSITION.
3.1.1. Sasol do not yet own the surface rights to any of the farms in question, and one of the owners, Mr Gionni Ravazotti, has instituted legal action to prevent Sasol accessing its minerals by way of surface mining. The other two farmers appear to be willing to sell to Sasol.
3.1.2. The area is zoned "nature areas" in terms of the 1982 Guide Plan for the Vaal River Complex. In February 1996 this was adopted as a regional structure plan by the Free State M.E.C. Open cast mining could never be considered compatible with "Nature Areas."
3.1.3. Despite embarking on a widely publicised Environmental Impact Assessment (E.I.A.) for this mine, Sasol are currently operating all their Sasolburg mining operations with temporary mining permits. NOT a single approved E.M.P. (Environmental Management Program), nor a proper section 9 "permit to mine" for any of their operations exists. This situation has pertained since 1991 when the new Mineral's Act came into being. Companies such as J.C.I. fully comply with the new act.
3.1.4. A permit for river diversion is required from Water Affairs for the proposed diversion of the Rietspruit - Minister Asmal has warned Sasol that this is a serious matter and that he will not allow the quality of Vaal water to be adversely impacted.
3.1.5. The Development Facilitation Act, Act 67 of 1995, s3 (1)(j) states that an "area should be judged on its own merits and no particular use of land .. such as residential . conservational ... mining .. should in advance or in general be regarded as being less important or desirable than any other use of land." This act has not even remotely been considered by Sasol, who seem to think that only the Minerals Act (which they don't comply with fully in any event) is relevant.
3.1.6. The new Constitution gives us the right to "an environment which is not detrimental to our health and well being" as well as "locus standi" or legal standing in this matter. Sasol has finally, grudgingly, conceded that we should be heard but do not appear to place much store by the Constitution.
3.1.7. As far as further prospecting is concerned, SAVE has warned Sasol of their statutory obligations in this regard, resulting in a temporary halt to these actions.
We have been interviewed and participated in talk-shows on the following radio stations:-
Radio Today, Vaal Community Radio, Radio Sonder Grense and Radio 702.
Carte Blanche' did a most successful feature on this mine that was screened on Sunday 27th October 1996.
We have had coverage from the following newspapers:-
The Star, Citizen, Beeld, Vaal Weekblad, Ster, Sunday Independent, Sasolburg Bulletin.
3.2.4. MAGAZINES: E.M.P. (Environmental Planning and Management), Engineering News and, still to come, Financial Mail, Fish Eagle, On Track and others.
3.3.1. Local farmers in the area have been brought on board.
3.3.2. Contact with Sasol's Unions has been most enlightening and is ongoing.
3.3.3. The people of Zamdela have approached SAVE for assistance. They have problems associated with dust off Sasol's dumps, noise and noxious gasses. SAVE is assisting them with investigations and legal expertise on an on-going basis.
3.3.4. A concerned group of citizens from Parys, downstream of Sasolburg have now also established links with SAVE Sasol have a permit to discharge their treated effluent BELOW their point of abstraction (an unusual situation) and Parys suffers shocking water quality as a result.
3.3.5. POLITICAL LOBBY: A letter has been sent to every member of the Cabinet and we are in the process of sending to all other parliamentarians.
S.A.V.E. is involved in researching a number of areas to support our objections:-
3.4.1. The economic viability of alternative sources of feedstock for S.C.I.
3.4.2. Economic viability of other land use options.
3.4.3. Geohydrological factors, and
3.4.4. The wetlands in detail.
This has been a bit of a running battle. Some blistering correspondence has flowed back and forth. They have been warned to comply with the law as we understand it while they have claimed that they need only consider the Minerals Act.
We have had meetings right up to the Chairman's level which have now culminated in the following admissions/statements:-
Sasol have made it clear that they consider their fiduciary duty to shareholders to maximise profits to be paramount.
S.C.I. is in no danger of closing down, only in danger of not growing its profits quite as much this year as it did last year should the mine not go ahead. If this proposed mine is scrapped they will implement other options.
The only Sasol jobs on the line are those of the 2000 underground miners who will be replaced by 250 strip-mine contractors. They will only do the bare minimum legally required of them in order to obtain a mining permit.
Senior management has reluctantly and dubiously taken our legal representations to their own advisers to study, but aver that they see no reason to alter their stance.
Sasol say they are not acting irresponsibly and will not mine if their E.I.A. goes against this decision. (This despite their own documentation showing that they consider the function of the E.I.A. to be soley to produce a draft E.M.P.R., which presupposes permission to mine).
Management has appealed to SAVE to suspend our media campaign until the release of the E.I.A. (or draft E.M.P.R?) at the end of January 1997. They state that Sasol and "the country" are being done unnecessary harm! This harks back to the days of the "total onslaught" when Sasol was elevated to Holy Cow status - management, like the Nationalist Government, see any disagreement with them as "treason".
The scope of the whole project has now widened to such an extent that any assistance will be most gratefully accepted. The following are some of the more important areas of assistance:-
We have already raised over R100,000.00 but will need at least five times this amount. Not one of the SAVE committee has taken one cent for transport, telephone, refreshments or remuneration.
Committee members, at their own expense, have flown experts in various fields up from as far as Cape Town and Durban. Press, government, legal people and other key figures have been exhaustively toured around the wetland, the river, the mines and Sasolburg - all at committee members' own expense.
Funds are expended on postage, legal experts and paid consultants only. They are fully audited and available for public scrutiny at all times.
Please don't belong to the "short arm - deep pocket" brigade - we desperately need substantial funds for this worthy cause.
Hugh Fraser is our Treasurer
Fax: (016) 982 5029
You can post to SAVE
PO Box 14629
We need assistance in the following fields:-
4.2.1. Aerial Photography
4.2.3. Eye complaints and respiratory problems associated with pollution.
Please photo-copy our support form and sign up as many friends and relatives as possible and return these forms to us at the above mentioned address.
Please write letters of protest to whoever you can think of, e.g. newspapers, the Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, the Department of Land Affairs, and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.
We will advise in good time of our next public meeting - please attend and bring your friends - you will probably find it most informative!
If you would like to use this banner in support of our cause please place it on your website with a link to http://www.save.org.za.