Possible prospecting threatens agriculture in NW

by Michelle van der Spuy

Should Kerosam Investments’ application for prospecting on agricultural land east of Ventersdorp be successful, it could be disadvantageous for agriculture in this area, says the Freedom Front Plus.

Last week, the party registered as a party of interest to appeal against the proposed mining operations. Kerosam Investments applied for prospecting rights with the aim of mining diamonds, gold, silver and copper, among other things, in this area where the intensive cultivation of crops like maize, vegetables and animal fodder takes place.

Marlene Steyn-du Toit, a Freedom Front Plus councillor in the JB Marks municipality, says that these agricultural operations are largely dependent on permanent underground water sources. Mining in this area will necessarily pollute these water sources.

“The apparent lack of transparency in the application process followed thus far is also a cause for concern. A limited time for the registration of interested parties was allowed, among other things, on the notice that was issued for the intended prospecting.”

Interested parties were given until Friday, 14 April, to register. Marlene says that the JB Marks municipality only became aware of the intended prospecting recently after the Freedom Front Plus brought it to their attention.

“The Freedom Front Plus will coordinate with agriculture organisations and other interested parties to ensure that the agriculture sector and the local community’s interests are protected. Irresponsible mining operations in vulnerable environments threaten food security and scarce natural resources. The Freedom Front Plus will continue to fight against any operations that threatens South Africa’s food security and scarce natural resources.”

How does the consultation process work?

Boeta du Toit, Chief Executive Officer of Agri Noordwes, says that the organisation is not unaware of the given application, but it is similar to a previous application on the same property for diamond prospecting. 

He explains that the applicant in an application like this employs a consultation company that has to handle the environmental aspects with stakeholders and/or landowners.

“This consultation company is obliged to, in accordance with the law, properly announce the given landowners and neighbouring landowners of the prospecting application. This is done by means of an advertisement in a local newspaper and also various notices, such as posters, in the area in question, as well as personal notices to landowners.

“The onus rests on the consultant to make contact with the landowners individually to inform them of their rights to participate and give input to the investigation. A 30-day period is legally required for this invitation process to participate before proceeding with a meeting of stakeholders.

“If this timescale is not met, the process of notification should restart. Stakeholders who were not notified and therefore could not consider the application can also lodge an objection with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and insist that the process be restarted.” 

He says the handling of prospecting applications and their administration by this department is extremely unsatisfactory. According to Boeta, it certainly holds a great threat to the protection of natural resources and agricultural production.

“Prospecting is often abused as a cover-up to already mine illegally if it is not monitored thoroughly. Prospecting and mining are often opportunistically abused by dubious applicants who pursue perceived wealth at the expense of the environment. Applications’ success is dependent on the consulting companies’ reports, which can also sometimes be questioned. Getting rehired for new jobs is their bread and butter.

“However, landowners have very specific rights regarding their ownership interest in the land surface. These include access control, waste management, compensation for surface damage and rehabilitation after prospecting. Appropriate agreements must therefore be drawn up between landowners and the prospector. Agri Noordwes is assisting its members with this.”

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