The High Court in Pretoria has set aside the government’s permission granted to Indian-owned company Atha-Africa Ventures to mine coal in the water-critical Mabola Protected Environment near Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga. Mabola is part of the Enkangala Drakensberg Strategic Water Source Area, which constitutes the headwaters of several critically important rivers, including the Vaal. The Vaal River supplies water to SA’s industrial heartland, including about 45% of the country’s population. The Mabola area was declared protected in 2014 under the Protected Areas Act by the provincial government as part of more than 70,000ha of protected area in the Mpumalanga grasslands. This action followed years of research and planning by several government agencies, including the environmental affairs department, the SA National Biodiversity Institute and the Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency. The permission given to Atha-Africa Ventures was the first in SA for a new mine in a protected environmen...

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