“The grasslands are important water sources, and home to a range of production sectors that underpin economic development. In the case of Mabola, the Protected Environment falls inside a strategic water source area which feeds some of South Africa’s biggest rivers,” Friedmann said.
Mashile Phalane, spokesperson for the Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of South Africa said this judgment was a victory for environmental justice.
“We want to see protected areas actually protected against mining by our government as custodians of the environment on behalf of all South Africans.
“This custodianship is violated if decisions that have such important consequences are taken behind closed doors.”
Catherine Horsfield, attorney and mining programme head at the Centre for Environmental Rights, welcomed the judgment.
She said the judgment confirmed to government and to all developers proposing heavily polluting projects in environmentally sensitive areas in South Africa that exceptional circumstances must be shown to exist to justify that proposed development.
“South Africa is a water-stressed country, and the Mabola Protected Environment, where the coal mine would be located, has particular hydrological significance for the country as a whole.”