An urgent call has been launched to stop De Beers Consolidated Mines from prospecting across various farms in the Bojanala Platinum and Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipalities as well as the Kgetleng River, Ditsobotla and Ramotshere Moiloa Local Municipalities in North-West Province. The prospecting application includes the Groot Marico River catchment.
According to Mmutlwa wa Noko who is spearheading a campaign to stop the prospecting license being granted:
The Groot Marico River is again directly under threat by a number of mining applications. Golder Associates on behalf of De Beers now made an application to prospect in the Vergenoeg farm portions. These farm portions in the Groot Marico form part of the heart of the strategically vital and sensitive Groot Marico River Catchment that provides water to many thousands of people, including towns, farms and traditional communities. No activity which has the potential to impact on this system, within a water scarce region, should be considered. Vergenoeg is part of the Upper Marico Catchment Biosphere Nomination to be presented to UNESCO, which is being driven by the Department of Parks and Tourism. Further, Vergenoeg and Wonderfontein are key eco-tourism areas within the Catchment and prospecting and mining activities would be in conflict with this.
The Catchment area contains valuable natural and cultural heritage resources ranging from the Stone and Iron Age to the historic period. Furthermore, the river is regarded as sacred by local communities and therefore constitutes an important intangible heritage resource. For many readers, Groot Marico also has near mythical status as the landscape that inspired many of the well-loved stories of Herman Charles Bosman.
As the draft Basic Assessment confirms:
The sub‐region is rich in heritage attributes relating back to the stone age. Sites dating to the historic period can be related to early farming, infrastructure development, mining, industries and towns. These also include sites of conflict, e.g. dating to the Anglo‐Boer War, cemeteries, etc. Included with these are also a number of sites of ethno‐historical significance, such as the tribal capitals of the different groups of Tswana‐ and Ndebele‐speakers living in the general area. Some of the examples of the Anglo‐Boer War heritage features near Swartruggens are as follows:
- Near Swartruggens (founded in 1875) the Battlefield of Elandsriver can still be seen with a war cemetery located in Swartruggens on the site of the battle. The battlefield site is located outside of the proposed prospecting license area. This site marks some of the last conventional fighting in the Second Boer War before the Boers had to resort to guerrilla warfare, and their victory here allowed them access to British supplies. The trenches and horse graves can still be seen. It is important that the above and other identified historic sites be identified and preserved for future generations and for tourism development.
- The Battle of Koster River, fought on 21/22 July 1900, is another major confrontational site in the Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality. Here the Australian Bushman Contingent, on their way to Rustenburg, was caught in an ambush by the Transvaal soldiers. 39 casualties were recorded and over 200 of their horses killed. The town of Koster was proclaimed in 1913. The battlefield site also lies outside of the proposed prospecting license area
In the immediate vicinity of Groot Marico, the following 20th and 21st century cultural heritage sites and features are notable:
- Anglo‐Boer War memorial and cemetery;
- Manual telephone exchange (Groot Marico);
- Herman Charles Bosman cultural heritage resources;
- “Mampoer”and culture; and
- Art Factory ‐ Groot Marico
Throughout the prospecting proposed license area, there are many farming and other settlements which contain graves and cemeteries, that potentially occur in singular or multiple sites. There are also many historic structures, notably farmsteads, outbuildings and other features such as ruins, kraal walls etc which may also have the potential of being considered protected heritage features or site of significance.
Mmutlwa wa Noko claims that it is unethical of Golder Associates to have conducted public participation processes over the December and January holidays. They also argue that the rich archaeological resources and intangible heritage components of the Vergenoeg and Wonderfontein farms are given scant attention in the report (the Marico area was inhabited by ancestral Sotho/Tswana speakers from the late 15th to the late 17th centuries and the archaeological evidence is particularly rich in the catchment area).
The deadline for registering as an interested and affected party and voicing objections is the 1st of February 2016. This can be done by
- Sending an objection to Golder Associates. Visit www.maricoeco.org.za
- Joining the Facebook group (“Save the Groot Marico River”)
- Signing the petition (click here)
- Supporting the campaign financially (email firstname.lastname@example.org)