Corobrik’s coal removal activities at Rietvlei slammed

Corobrik centre in Nasrec. Picture: File

Corobrik centre in Nasrec. Picture: File

Published Mar 5, 2024


The brick-making company Corobrik is under fire from environmentalists opposing the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s approval of the entity’s environmental plan to extract coal discovered at its 40-year-old quarry in Rietvlei near Centurion.

Environmentalists have expressed concern that mining activity in the area might result in acid mine drainage into the Rietvlei Nature Reserve, the dam and wetland, located close to the Corobrik open mining plant.

Another concern was that the acid mine drainage could potentially have a serious adverse impact on the birds and other fauna relying on the wetland for their breeding and feeding.

Corobrik chief executive Nick Booth said: “There is a little bit of misunderstanding. We are not opening a coal mine. We have been mining at Rietvlei on our property for 40 years, since 1983. We have been mining clay. We run a brick factory there, which has been in operation since 1984.”

He explained that in the process of mining clay his company discovered coal and had to ask for permission from the department “to take the coal out so that we can access our clay reserves.”

“We will spend six to seven years removing the coal. We are not mining coal and we already have an open mine on the site and we have been mining for 40 years,” he said.

He said concerns raised regarding potential risks of removing coal to Rietvlei Dam and Rietvlei Nature Reserve were addressed last year during a public participation process.

“We have followed all the legal processes in order to mitigate and prevent any environmental impact issues,” Booth said.

But, Birdlife Northern Gauteng opposing the mining activities said the department under Minister Gwede Mantashe issued an environmental authorisation to Corobrik without potential impacts on the nature reserve and the dam being assessed.

Sheleph Burger, responsible for the organisation’s social media and marketing, said the department granted Corobrik approval on February 2.

She said the approval for coal-mining activities was granted despite the fact that “the acid mine drainage into the Rietvlei Nature Reserve, the dam and wetland may have a serious adverse impact on the birds and other fauna relying on the wetland for their breeding and feeding”.

“The environmental impact studies submitted by Corobrik fall seriously short in addressing various critical issues impacting the environment, in particular the acid mine drainage,” she said.

She said her organisation was concerned about Corobrik’s coal extraction activities and the potential devastating impact that the acid mine drainage may have on the birdlife downstream.

As part of its campaign against the mining activities, the organisation lodged an appeal with both the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, and the Department of Water and Sanitation.

Burger said her organisation would object in any way possible to stop Corobrik’s mining activities which may harm the delicate bird and other fauna in the Rietvlei Nature Reserve and wetland.

She further urged all other parties that care about the birdlife in Rietvlei Nature Reserve and its wetland to also appeal to the respective departments to stop Corobrik’s coal-mining activities.

Also joining the fray was Greenpeace Africa, which has mobilised people to sign an online petition against the company.

The organisation is aiming to have at least 10 000 signatures in its campaign to stop Corobrik’s coal-mining activities and yesterday it had already garnered 8 616 supporters.

“Not only is this (mining activity) a bad idea for our climate, biodiversity and wildlife, the impacts on air and water quality could have significant health impacts for people in multiple municipalities in the surrounding area,” the organisation said.

Greenpeace Africa believes the conservation area, in existence since 1923 and which provides 15% of Pretoria’s water and a home to rhino, buffalo, cheetah and birdlife, is under threat.

The department has promised to comment on concerns by environmentalists regarding potential risks of coal extraction near Rietvlei Nature Reserve and Rietvlei Dam today.

Pretoria News

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