Biodiversity is in our … way

Gary Jordan discovered only last week that there are those who want to turn Jordan estate into a mine. They intend to start prospecting for tin, lithium or whatever else might be lurking beneath his vines and a whole lot of endangered flora in the area. In fact two applications for prospecting rights have been provisionally granted by the Department of Mineral Resources – one will affect farms and indigenous vegetation in the Durbanville/Tygerberg area (including De Grendel, the up and coming winery owned by David Graaff). The other is this area in excess of 4700 hectares on a few farms west of Stellenbosch, all of which are part of the Bottelary Renosterveld Conservancy.

These hills, according to the Conservancy website, “are home to fauna and flora species which are now endangered. Concerned  landowners, together with Cape Nature Conservation initiated a conservation program to protect the remaining vegetation, rehabilitate sensitive areas and reintroduce species lost to the area”.

Well, not if the African Exploration Mining and Finance Corporation has its way and decides to dig. And what of little details like environmental management programmes and consultation with those involved? Trouble is, the Corporation is part of the state-owned Central Energy Fund and has been exempted by the Minister of Minerals and Energy from many provisions of the regulations governing such matters. Gary Jordan says that many of the landowners and most of the interested and affected parties have not been consulted nor received notification of the prospect of prospecting. Jordan, Saxenburg and Zewenwacht seem likely to be affected.

It all makes something of a mockery of the wine industry’s genuine efforts to do at least something to preserve what’s left of the renosterveld and fynbos destroyed by the monoculture of vines amongst other forces. The slogan of “Biodiversity is in our nature” has been treated with much unconstructive negativity in some quarters, and the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative might well be flawed – some people think it is – but it’s all a damn side healthier than a mining company trampling over the Bottelary and Durbanville hillsides without any control over their effect on the environment (or the farms involved).

It also makes something of a mockery of the Central Energy Fund’s website, actually – the home page of which is full of what looks like involvement in “green” issues.

Apparently there is only until the 9th March to register as an interested party – though in fact I’m not sure whether such registration means there’s a reasonable chance of fighting this granting of prospecting rights. Gary Jordan has called a meeting on the the issue, to be held at the Conference Centre at Zevenwacht Estate at 10h00 on Saturday 27 February. All interested and affected parties are welcome to attend.

Let’s hope that they have better luck in opposing this development than did those protesting last year at the German government building a motorway above some of the finest and most spectacular vineyards in the Mosel valley.

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