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John Wallington, CEO of CoAL

More trouble for Coal of Africa's Vele mine

Brendan Ryan | Fri, 29 Jul 2011 10:27

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[] -- DEVELOPMENT of Coal of Africa’s (CoAL) Vele coking coal mine in Limpopo has been hit again following legal action by a coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) opposed to the mine.

The coalition - which includes organisations like the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the Peace Parks Foundation - has lodged an appeal against the granting of the integrated water use licence (IWUL) to Vele, which was approved on April 4.

Vele was subsequently granted its environmental authorisation on July 5, clearing the mine to complete the construction and commissioning phases and be able to ramp up to full production within six to nine months of a restart of operations in August.

Lodging the appeal automatically suspends the IWUL, but CoAL is lodging its own urgent appeal to the Minister of Environmental and Water Affairs to direct that the IWUL remains in full force until the final conclusion of the appeal process.

That appeal process could take months before finality is reached through meetings of the Water Tribunal.

CoAL CEO John Wallington commented: "We expected this action from the NGO coalition. We received the documentation only late last night and are still in the process of digesting it."

Wallington said CoAL would continue with the remaining work required for commissioning Vele mine that could be carried out without the use of water.

"Obviously we cannot wet commission the plant and we will not be taking on any full-time employees until this legal process has been resolved," he said.

"I am confident that the appeal process will rule in our favour because we have met all the environmental conditions required of us and have full authorisation from the department."

The NGO coalition is bitterly opposed to the Vele mine because they view it as the first of a number of possible coal operations that could be developed in the region, which would compromise the proposed Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA).

Vele sits just east of the Mapungubwe National Park and outside the designated buffer zone for the TFCA, but two other coal projects proposed by Anglo American and Universal Coal fall inside the buffer zone.

Other long-term projects that are being looked at for the region include a possible coal-fired power station and a coal-bed methane plant.

The standpoint of the NGOs is that conservation through the TFCA would be a far more sustainable way of developing the region, creating jobs and revenues that would last long after the proposed mines had closed down.


CoAL is currently in the early stages of development of the Makhado coking coal mine in Limpopo, where a bulk sample has been taken and processed at Exxaro’s Tshikondeni colliery.

Samples of the washed product will now be tested at ArcelorMittal’s Vanderbijlpark works to check suitability for use in the steel giant's blast furnaces.

"Makhado is a totally different proposition to Vele in terms of the related environmental sensitivities," said Wallington.

"The development of Makhado will also be done by the book paying full attention all the regulatory requirements and nothing is going to happen there until all the required environmental authorizations have been granted up-front.”

CoAl also published its June quarterly report on Friday, in which the highlight is a marked improvement by Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) on delivery of coal for export to the Matola Terminal in Maputo.

CoAL reported sales of export coal totalling 492,781 tonnes in the June quarter (March quarter: 198,347t) "due to increased operational performance on the Maputo Rail Corridor and additional throughput capacity at the Matola Terminal."

"Transnet has upped its game rather nicely in the short-term. We still have to see if this will be maintained to reach the stated target rate of railing 4.5 million tonnes of coal annually to Matola by the end of the calendar year. CoAL has the rights to utilise 3mt of that capacity."

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