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CoAL out of Africa!

Civil society groups demand global corporations reconsider investment in Coal of Africa mining project, South Africa.

Today, civil society groups and community members from the Limpopo Province of South Africa sent a letter to over fifty shareholders and potential investors of Coal of Africa (CoAL) demanding that they reconsider their plans to support the company - and specifically the Makhado Project - in Venda, Limpopo because of the damaging impact that it will have on their ecosystem and livelihoods.

The letter, which is endorsed by 12 local groups, has been sent to shareholders and potential investors including M & G Investments (part of Prudential), JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and ArcelorMittal, in advance of Coal of Africa's General Meeting of Shareholders, which takes place in central London this Wednesday, 14th December.

CoAL's Makhado project, which is one of two in the Limpopo region, will deplete the underground water from the area in Venda by 2014, by the company's own admission. In addition to this, the letter draws attention to a number of alarming issues relating to CoAL's handling of the Makhado project and their neighbouring Vele mine. These include the 32 criminal charges brought against the company; a flawed public participation process; failure to provide adequate answers to questions raised by the community; no water licence; and an insufficient Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA).
Venda region, South Africa. Photography by Will Baxter.

Moses Mudau, spokesperson for Dzomo la Mupo, a community-based organisation who have signed the letter, states: "CoAL started prospecting in the nearby Vele mining operation without public participation, without complying with the National Environmental Management Act, clearing the area without permission and building an airstrip without permission, demonstrating a total disregard for South Africa's environmental legislation. Now, with the Makhado Project, they began prospecting without a water-use licence, when they started taking coal out of the sensitive, water-scarce area in the Limpopo Valley. They refuse - despite it being illegal to do so - to give the interested and affected parties copies of their prospecting permit and their Environmental Management Programme for Makhado".

"By the company's own admission, the underground water of the area will be depleted by 2014, without taking into consideration the huge water demands of neighbouring mining projects. They do not even consider the needs of the ecosystem nor the communities who depend on it for their lives".

The concerns of Dzomo La Mupo┬┤s mirrors that of countless communities across South Africa, particularly those in Limpopo , where mining projects are growing at an alarming rate and with little regard for the communities or ecosystems which they threaten to destroy.

The letter's closing statement sets out the signatories position: "We pledge to stop the Makhado CoAL Project from going ahead. We alert you to the fact that what you might consider to be a profitable investment will cause the permanent destruction of our ancestral homes, ecosystems, livelihoods and the future options for our children. Without water there is no life. Without land we have no livelihoods".

This open letter to shareholders and potential investors of CoAL, is based on evidence and analysis from a research report commissioned by an alliance of groups, to look into the impacts of coal mining "Mine Not - Waste Not: A preliminary critique of aspects of the CoAL Makhado Colliery Project EIA and EMP", available from the The Gaia Foundation, the London Mining Network and The Mupo Foundation (South Africa).

For further information please contact Rowan Phillimore at The Gaia Foundation on 0207 428 0054 or rowan@gaianet.org

More on Coal of Africa

The General Meeting of Shareholders of Coal of Africa Limited ABN 98 008 905 388 will be held at 11.00 am (London time) on 14 December 2011 at Tavistock Communications, 8th Floor, 131 Finsbury Pavement, London EC2A 1NT.

Coal of Africa are involved in four projects in South Africa: two in Limpopo Province of which one is the Makhado Project and two in Mpumalanga. The two in Mpumalanga province are the Zonnebloem Mine and Mooiplaats, in the headwater's of the Vaalriver, which provides water to the whole of Gauteng province.