The Groot Marico is under threat!
Groot Marico faces unprecedented destruction from open cast Nickel mining.
It is proposed that prospecting and
mining take place in and around Groot Marico. An application was made by African
Nickel to start prospecting on almost all the farms in Groot Marico - and every
farm on the Marico river.
In May 2010 life changed dramatically for the community here at Groot Marico, North West Province. We became aware of a prospecting and mining company called ‘African Nickel’ and its plans for us.
The lifeblood of our area is the Groot Marico River, which begins a few kilometers south of the historical town of Groot Marico.
The Marico River is graded as an A/B (least impacted) river, and is one of the few remaining such rivers in the country. This means that the water is clear and safe to drink! In fact the town of Groot Marico and all the farms along the river derive their drinking and household water directly from the river.
The waters of the Marico River flow through the Marico Bushveld Dam, the Molatedi Dam and the Tswasa Weir, and at the confluence with the Crocodile River gives rise to the Limpopo River.
The fertile plains along the Marico River, together with its pristine waters, provide for an extensive crop and cattle industry, as well as drinking water for huge communities. In the area below the Marico Bushveld Dam, a major irrigation scheme supports many thousands of Black restitution farmers.
The Molatedi Dam, which is mainly dependent on the Groot Marico River for its waters, is the sole supplier of water to the Madikwe Game Reserve, and the Tswasa Weir, just north of the Dam, provides, by pipeline, the major water supply for the city of Gaberone, Botswana.
The Marico River has two sources – the first being a complex of three dolomitic eyes, which pour crystal clear, pristine waters into the start of the river,
The Eye of the Marico - where the river starts ...
- the second, being the catchment area immediately next to the eyes and several other springs.
The catchment area surrounds the town of Groot Marico and constitutes a magnificent Bushveld area of koppies, kranse, ancient indigenous trees and bush. It is home to naturally occurring game, birds and aquatic creatures. The area is beautiful beyond description and attracts visitors from all over the world. There are also many game farms. Almost all property owners in this area are dedicated to preservation and conservation.
‘African Nickel’ seeks to perform massive and destructive open cast mining in this very area. Numerous pits of up to 2 kilometers by ˝ km and up to 200m deep are being contemplated.
These pits will be blasted constantly, causing shock waves, noise and dust, and removal of masses of ore will require a conveyer belt of huge trucks to transport the ore to the nearest processing plants, probably in Rustenburg.
AT PRESENT ‘AFRICAN NICKEL’ IS APPLYING FOR PROSPECTING RIGHTS IN THE CATCHMENT AREA BUT ALREADY HAVE PROSPECTING RIGHTS A SHORT DISTANCE FROM THE GROOT MARICO EYES AND HAVE BEEN CONDUCTING EXTENSIVE DIAMOND DRILLING THERE! THEY ARE ALREADY ADVERTISING FOR INVESTORS.
We do not know how ‘African Nickel’ secured these rights since none of the interested and affected parties (IAPs) were informed of ‘African Nickel’s’ application and had any knowledge of their activities until recently. ‘African Nickel’ also maintained that they are only a prospecting company, but finally admitted that they will convert to a mining company when the time comes.
Dolomitic eyes are geological formations where groundwater from aquifers is forced through fractures in the earth to the surface. The ecology in these areas is dependent on the surface water and groundwater and any alterations or disturbances to these will obviously affect entire ecosystems. Eyes are incredibly sensitive and unique landscape features with unique ecosystems and biodiversity found nowhere else.
No wonder the Groot Marico Eye is such a popular diving site. It is amazing to discover this pure, untainted, crystal clear body of water in the middle of the hot and dry Bushveld.
The water is so clear that water lily leaves under the surface look close enough to touch, yet when you reach in they are meters below.
Drilling, even for prospecting alone, may alter normal water flow. Chemicals used in the drilling process enter the water systems and can cause irreversible damage. Other chemicals and/or heavy metals may also be released as the layers of the earth are disturbed. Once again, this pollution is irreversible.
By interfering with the natural flow routes of water, water levels could actually be reduced at the eyes.
Now, imagine a MINE in this area! Mining will have a massive impact on the supply of water downstream – from the points of both quantity and quality. The Groot Marico Eyes and catchment area are very important ecologically and are a CONSERVATION PRIORITY.
Clearly rehabilitation will be impossible! In any event ‘African Nickel’ shows a callous attitude towards rehabilitation – an example of this is shown in the budget of one their prospecting programs – the amount budgeted for stationery and cell phones is more than the amount they intend to spend on rehabilitation. Anyway, mining houses are notorious for declaring bankruptcy when it comes to “rehabilitation”.
There is nothing African about ‘African Nickel’: 74% of the Company is registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and its BEE partner, ‘Sephaku’, sold its 26% shareholding to Chinese investors during the week ending 18 June 2010.
No job opportunities will be created since (according to ‘African Nickel’s own document) “nickel mining is highly technical and highly mechanized, employing skilled, highly paid personnel”.
The directorate of ‘African Nickel’, on their own statement, stand to make exceptional amounts of money, and Director Richard Hornsey described the company as “better the devil you know”.
‘African Nickel’ has not followed procedure at any stage of their application. They neglected to inform much of the Groot Marico community of their application for prospecting, and many locals were sent letters from them with insufficient postage, which had to be paid in order to receive the letters. Many letters were posted past the due date. A few members of the community who received notification called for a meeting with African Nickel and informed other members of the community of African Nickel’s existence.
At this meeting on 15 May 2010, three hundred locals stood up against ‘African Nickel’ and formed a committee to spearhead the action against ‘African Nickel’. This Committee formed an association called MALEPA – the Marico Land and Environmental Protection Association, which has an extensive membership of land owners, land residents and other IAP’s.
African Nickel is clearly attempting to place the affected community at a disadvantage by not properly informing us of what they intend doing and thereby depriving us of our constitutional rights to be heard.
At meetings on 10 June 2010, held at the Regional Manager’s office of the Department of Mineral Reserves in Klerksdorp, attended by representatives of African Nickel, MALEPA, and other affected parties, the Regional Mining Development and Environmental Committee (REMDEC) gave African Nickel two months to get their house in order.
MALEPA is currently launching a full investigation into African Nickel’s activities and if any fraudulent practices are uncovered we will refer the matter to the NPA.
If the Marico catchment area is destroyed it is gone forever – and this for the sake of maybe ten years (if that) of greed to line the pockets of foreigners and a few unscrupulous locals.
South Africa is a water impoverished country. The region through which the Groot Marico River flows is dry. These waters are more valuable than the minerals African Nickel seeks to extract. Any sentient being with a modicum of sense and intelligence will say: “PRESERVE AT ALL COSTS”.
Nickel mining is a toxic enterprise, which requires very strict controls. In many parts of the world it is no longer allowed. Can we be so naďve as to allow it here?
This enterprise must not be allowed to happen. Please help us to raise awareness of this evil so that we can fight it successfully. If we lose this battle, the lives and livelihoods of thousands will be destroyed, as well as a rare, precious and irreplaceable ecosystem. Our very special Groot Marico, with its fascinating cultural heritage and unique feel will cease to exist.
Nature’s bounty is not infinite and should not be taken for granted.
We thank you for your time and support.
Community of Groot Marico