Cape Winemakers Guild – News!

http://www.capewinemakersguild.com/news/article.asp?newsID=113

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

Miner digs in on winelands application

A major row is brewing between some Western Cape wine estate owners and African Exploration Mining & Finance Corporation (AEMFC) over the state-owned company’s plans to start mining on farms in the Stellenbosch and Cape Town municipal areas.

News last week of an application by AEMFC for rights to prospect for and possibly mine tin, zinc, lead, lithium, copper, manganese and silver on the farms angered wine farmers, residents and environmental groups.

They have voiced concern that mining could disturb ecodiversity, and affect tourism and the quality of wines produced in the region.

AEMFC said yesterday that it would not withdraw its application for mineral rights in the region, and it was up to the Department of Mineral Resources to accept or reject its application.

AEMFC CEO Sizwe Madondo said the company would not back down. “This is still an application and anyone has the right to raise an objection about it. We are still going ahead with the application and it is only the (department) that has to make a determination.”

Wine estate owner Gary Jordan said yesterday that farmers, residents and environmental groups had met at the weekend and resolved to challenge the application. Further meetings have been planned for this week by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to mobilise against the state mining house’s intentions.

Jordan said wine farmers were livid because they were not given any opportunity to raise their objections to the application.

“The major problem here is that we were not given any opportunity to object and our concern is that the government is trying to bulldoze this through.

“This has been a shoddy process and is a deliberate attempt to exclude the public from raising its concerns in the matter.

“There is a conflict of interest here in that AEMFC is a state company and the (department) has to decide on its application,” Jordan said.

“We will take the matter up with the minister, failing which we will take the legal route to challenge the issue in our bid to have the process declared flawed.”

DA spokesman Hendrik Schmidt said that, in essence, the state, as the shareholder of AEMFC, had applied for the granting of a prospecting right while also serving as the required authority in the awarding of those same prospecting rights.

“This position is clearly untenable as it simultaneously acts as both player and referee in the proposed mineral regime being implemented by the government,” he said.

Department spokesman Jeremy Michaels said: “The Department of Mineral Resources processes applications for prospecting rights strictly within the limits of relevant legislation, and we do so without fear or favour regardless of who the applicant is.”

Jordan said there were seven major wine estates that stood to be affected by the state mining company’s move, and these included prominent farms such as Hooggelegen, De Grendel, Langverwacht and Haasendal.

All of these farms were members of the Bottelary Renosterbos Conservancy, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation biodiversity site.

The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) said the areas affected formed part of landowner conservancies, established by wine farmers to conserve and promote awareness of the region’s biodiversity.

Inge Kotze of WWF’s Biodiversity & Wine initiative, said these landowners had invested significantly in removing invasive vegetation and rehabilitating the area for the past decade, and were among the first to be recognised as Biodiversity & Wine members.

“Not only would mining in this area have a massive impact on the conservation of biodiversity, but it would have major economic impacts on booming wine tourism, along with significant job losses,” Kotze said.

Posted by BHEKI MPOFU Resources Editor

mpofub@bdfm.co.za