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UN World Heritage Committee experts have slammed the South African government for proceeding with coal mining activities near the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site
A report tabled at the annual World Heritage Committee meeting this week warned that opencast coal mining by an Australian company would pose a “major threat” to the integrity of Mapungubwe and could result in “unacceptable and irreversible damage” to huge strips of land in the vicinity.
Despite warnings, there has been a rush of new applications to mine the coal-rich area, where South Africa meets Zimbabwe and Botswana at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers.
An expert monitoring team, which visited Mapungubwe earlier this year, noted with concern that the South African department of minerals and energy recently authorised more than 20 other mines prospecting leases for coal, petroleum and gas in the area. It said that the South African government appeared to have ignored previous pleas to put mining on hold by giving the nod to the Australian company to carry on mining.
The monitoring team included African unit of Unesco’s World Heritage Centre chief, Lazare Eloundou, and a history researcher from the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, Dag Avango.
The team was surprised to find that the Australian coal mining plant was 95 per cent complete, despite an official government assurance that mining had been halted.