SHAW Park residents are both angry and concerned at plans to mine limestone on farms in the area.
At public meeting held at the community’s country club last Thursday, residents were kept up to date with developments, and farmers in the area unanimously rejected the idea of limestone mining on any of their farms, saying it would destroy their livelihoods.
Although currently in early stages, plans to exploit the potential for mining limestone on identified farmlands in the area are already underway.
Jonathan Bradfield of Limestone Hill Farm reminded the meeting that his family had farmed the area for several generations. Proud of his settler-stock ancestry, he said it would not matter if he was offered a billion rand for his property, it was simply not for sale.
“We have a history here,” he told the 20 Shaw Park residents who attended the meeting. “We are not prepared to sell or have a mine established here.”
However, a prospecting licence was recently awarded to building and construction material supplier Laman whose staff made several trips to the area in April through June this year and sent geologists, palaeontologists and other scientists to investigate the limestone deposits.
“We witnessed a lot of activity in the area and told Shaw Park may have a considerable amount of limestone,” said Bradfield. “There was also a mini-environmental impact analysis carried out by Terreco Environmental to ascertain whether the site was of historical significance.”
According to Bradfield, Laman’s prospecting licence allowed them to bore a series of 50mm holes through the areas of interest to establish the quantity and quality of the limestone deposits there.
On first learning of the proposed mining of the area Bradfield, Eastern Border Farmers Association chairman Coert Herbst, chairman of the Albany Farmers League Danny Wepener together with Frik van Rooyen of the Kleinemonde Ratepayers Association met with Laman chief executive officer Mcebisi Mlonzi at Limestone Hill Farm where they express their concerns.
“We were informed that there would be a R3-billion investment in developing the quarry and cement factory, and that it would create 3 000 new jobs,” said Bradfield.
Those present at last Thursday’s meeting expressed doubt as to the validity of this claim.
Wepener explained that such development would have a significant impact on the farming community in the area, as well as affecting nearby Kleinemonde.
“What about the jobs that will be lost in the farming sector?” he asked.
Shaw Park resident and farmer Bjorn Heightmann suggested the infrastructural requirements to quarry limestone and produce cement would be significant, including the need for copious amounts of water, electricity and housing for the alleged 3 000 new workers in the area.
“Where will all this water come from?” he asked, mindful of the severe water-scarcity experienced in this region of the Eastern Cape.
Bradfield responded that Mlonzi had assured them such matters would be “easily resolved” as Laman was prepared to invest considerably in the area should the limestone deposits prove commercially viable.
“He (Mlonzi) told us that Laman would relocate the schools and the country club if that proved necessary,” Wepener explained to the meeting. “Money didn’t seem to be of any concern to him.”
According to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) of 2002, any minerals discovered on South African soil belong to the people of South Africa. Farmers therefore do not own any minerals discovered on their land and have no rights to prevent their exploration or exploitation.
“We could lock the gates of our farms to prevent access, but this would only be a temporary measure that would delay the initial prospecting operation. Mining rights have to be negotiated with the farmers individually as they own the topsoil,” said Bradfield.
“Our best hope is that the prospecting takes place and it is found that the deposits are not substantial enough to warrant further mining to take place.”
Despite repeated attempts to contact Ndlambe municipality, Laman and Terreco via e-mail and telephone over the past week, TotT had received no response at the time of going to press.