Cape Winemakers Guild – News!

State-owned company seeks rights to prospect in prime Western Cape winelands

THE CAPE Winemakers Guild has joined Western Cape farmers in opposition to an application that has been made by a state-owned company to prospect for minerals on their farms, which include some of the country’s best vineyards.

The owner of De Grendel wine estate, Sir David Graaff, who is a former deputy trade and industry minister, is taking on the state, which through a subsidiary of the Central Energy Fund is seeking mining prospecting rights on his farm.

The application comes as the cabinet considers a proposal by the minerals ministry for one state mining company to be formed that would embrace all mining interests of the state.

This follows President Jacob Zuma’s remarks last week that while the state had no intention of nationalising mining companies, this did not mean the state would be excluded from mining activities.

The DA, which rules the Western Cape together with the ID, has bitterly opposed the application for exploration rights by the African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation (AEMFC), which wants the prospecting rights in the Bottelary area of Stellenbosch as well as an area of Tygerberg, which lies on the boundary of the Cape Town metropolitan area.

Other prominent farms affected are Hooggelegen, Langverwacht, Haasendal, Jordan and Rosendal.

DA MP Hendrik Schmidt said mineral exploration and other mining activities should not be the function of a state- owned company.
The state has also come under fire for being both a player and a referee as the Department of Minerals and Energy is responsible for granting the licence.

Department spokesman Jeremy Michaels said the application would be processed in line with the relevant legislation “without fear or favour regardless of whom the applicant is “.

Graaff, who turned to farming full time after retiring from politics 11 years ago, said he did not want a company “making holes” in the ground in the middlle of his vines and pledged to fight against the prospecting application.

Cape Winemakers’ Guild chairman Johan Malan said the guild believed that not only would the proposed mining activities destroy the Unesco- registered Bottelary Renosterbos Conservancy and the vineyards that attracted large numbers of tourists to South Africa every year, “it will also result in the loss of employment and income for a great many families working on the wine farms in these areas”.

The guild represents a range of famous wine estates including Neil Ellis, De Grendel Wines, Graham Beck Wines, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Kanonkop, Paul Cluver Wines and Spier.

The AEMFC has applied for rights to prospect for tin, zinc, lithium, lead, copper, manganese and silver.

Graaff said there were some old mines on De Grendel dating back to the late 1800s when “fool’s gold” was mined. It was found to be valueless.

Sizwe Madondo, the chief executive of AEMFC, said his company undertook “a desktop study” and the investigations discovered there were industrial minerals in the area “and in our question to understand the geology of the area we decided to apply for a prospecting right which will give us legal access in the ground for geological investigations”.

“The prospecting right is not a mining licence and wifi not give us any right to degrade the environment in any way,” The De Grendel wine estate is one of several wine farms that are under threat from an application by a state-owned mining company to prospect for minerals in the Western Cape. Madondo said.

Asked why objections had to be lodged so soon – by March 9 – Madondo said the law gave the AEMFC only 30 days to complete the public consultation process.

Donwald Pressly – Business Report