The Mpumalanga government is taking steps to exclude part of the water-critical Mabola Protected Environment from a mining prohibition to pave the way for the development of a coal mine. The Mabola area near Wakkerstroom is part of the Enkangala Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area that constitutes the headwaters of several critically important rivers, including the Vaal. Mabola is part of one of 21 strategic water resource areas which together form the catchments for 50% of the country’s freshwater supply. The Vaal River is the main contributor to the volume of the Vaal Dam and the Integrated Vaal River System (IVRS), which supply water to about 45% of SA’s population and the country’s industrial heartland. The IVRS is already heavily polluted with domestic and industrial effluent flowing into the catchment because of failing municipal infrastructure. This necessitates inter-basin transfers of water to dilute effluent in contaminated rivers and raises the cost of purification. T...

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