How 500 tons of gold almost foiled heritage site


Mining minister Gwede Mantashe was opposed to the Barberton Makhonjwa mountains gaining World Heritage Site status because the area is home to at least 500 tons of easily accessible gold – equal to centuries worth of mining.

A letter leaked to Times Select reveals that Mantashe wrote to Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa a month before the decision‚ urging her to ensure that jobs and economic development were not be trumped by conservation.

The mountains were granted world heritage status by the United Nations Educational‚ Scientific and Cultural Organisation in July.

The rocks in the mountains in Mpumalanga are thought to be one of the oldest places on Earth – between 3.2 and 3.6 billion years old.

The departments of arts and culture and the department of environmental affairs successfully pushed for the mountains to be added as a site.

Mining company Pan African Resources‚ which provides nearly all the jobs in Barberton‚ also unsuccessfully objected to some parts of mountainous site receiving world heritage status.

The Department of Mineral Resources said: “Any decision to award a mining right would therefore have taken into account the need to balance the development of the country’s minerals and its associated economic benefits‚ with the need to preserve the environment for current and future generations. Engagements between the ministers of mineral resources and environmental affairs in this regard should therefore be understood in this context. Attempts to infer otherwise are mischievous.”

Molewa’s spokesman‚ Albi Modise‚ said: “There are no differences at all between the environmental affairs minister and minister Mantashe.”

The Department of Arts and Culture replied that they will not comment.

By: Katharine Child

-For more on this story‚ please visit Times Select.

Source: TMG Digital.

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