Venda, South Africa - Venda Communities say No! to CoAL Mining
"Minerals and metals are the heart of the Earth. They are there for a reason. If we remove the minerals and materials like coal or gold, it is like removing a person's heart. Minerals and metals are the heart of the Earth. They are the Earth, especially in our Zwifho, our sacred sites, they will die if minerals or metals are removed. Their life force will be drained. If we do this we will kill Mupo, our Mother Earth." - Dzomo la Mupo (Voice of the Earth), custodians of the network of sacred sites in Venda, South Africa.
Venda in Limpopo Province is well known for its biodiversity and cultural heritage. To the Venda peoples the indigenous forests, rivers, mountain peaks and waterfalls are places of vital ecological, cultural and spiritual importance - revered as sacred sites. The network of sacred sites are protected by custodial clans. The elder women within these clans - the Makhadzi - are known as the "rainmakers" of South Africa, who practice cultural traditions of rainmaking to maintain the health and integrity of the local ecosystems.
However, Venda's cultural and ecological diversity are increasingly threatened by land grabbing, development projects, tourism and now mining. Coal of Africa (CoAL), an Australian mining company, has proposed the Makhado Coking Coal Project. If this goes ahead, the community faces severe ecological, social and economic damage to their ancestral homes. The biggest concern is water because this is an area where water is already scarce. CoAL has admitted that the project will exhaust the underground water in the Venda area by 2014, and this is without even considering the water needs of the local community, or the water consumption of the neighbouring Vele mine also owned by CoAL in the Limpopo province. A report 'Mine Not - Waste Not' by an international expert, commissioned by the communities, reveals that CoAL has failed to provide complete water studies for the project and has yet to be granted a water license. There is also a high risk of contaminated water from the mine seeping back into the water table and polluting ground water.
The Report also highlights how CoAL's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) are incomplete. CoAL refused, 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.
Civil society groups have mobilised in response, demanding recognition of the fact that no water license has yet been granted and asking global share-holders and potential investors to reconsider their investment in the CoAL Makhado project.
Dzomo la Mupo are calling for recognition of their sacred sites as 'No-Go Zones' for development and extractive industries. Having developed principles, local constitutions and community governance plans, the custodians are seeking legal recognition of their responsibility to protect their network of sacred sites according to their customary governance systems, under national and international laws.