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Mining Madness – We Need Help Here in South Africa

In May 2010 life changed dramatically for the community here at Groot Marico, South Africa. We became aware of a prospecting and mining company called ‘African Nickel’ and its plans for us.

The lifeblood of our area is the Groot Marico River, which begins a few kilometers south of the historical town of the same name.

The Marico River is graded as an A/B (least impacted) river, and is one of the few remaining such rivers in the country. This means that the water is clear and safe to drink! In fact the town of Groot Marico and all the farms along the river derive their drinking and household water directly from the river.

The waters of the Marico River flow through the Marico Bushveld Dam, the Molatedi Dam and the Tswasa Weir, and at the confluence with the Crocodile River gives rise to the Limpopo River.

The fertile plains along the Marico River, together with its pristine waters, provide for an extensive crop and cattle industry, as well as drinking water for huge communities. In the area below the Marico Bushveld Dam, a major irrigation scheme supports many thousands of Black restitution farmers.

The Molatedi Dam, which is mainly dependent on the Groot Marico River for its waters, is the sole supplier of water to the Madikwe Game Reserve, and the Tswasa Weir, just north of the Dam, provides, by pipeline, the major water supply for the city of Gaberone, Botswana.

The Marico River has two sources – the first being a complex of three dolomitic eyes, which pour crystal clear, pristine waters into the start of the river, the second, being the catchment area immediately next to the eyes and several other springs.

The catchment area surrounds the town of Groot Marico and constitutes a magnificent Bushveld area of koppies, kranse, ancient indigenous trees and bush. It is home to naturally occurring game, birds and aquatic creatures. The area is beautiful beyond description and attracts visitors from all over the world. There are also many game farms. Almost all property owners in this area are dedicated to preservation and conservation.

‘African Nickel’ seeks to perform massive and destructive open cast mining in this very area. Numerous pits of up to 2 kilometers by ½ km and up to 200m deep are being contemplated.

These pits will be blasted constantly, causing shock waves, noise and dust, and removal of masses of ore will require a conveyer belt of huge trucks to transport the ore to the nearest processing plants, probably in Rustenburg.

At present ‘African Nickel’ is applying for prospecting rights in the catchment area but already have prospecting rights a short distance from the Groot Marico Eyes and have been conducting extensive diamond drilling there! They are already advertising for investors.

We do not know how ‘African Nickel’ secured these rights since none of the interested and affected parties (IAPs) were informed of ‘African Nickel’s’ application and had any knowledge of their activities until recently. ‘African Nickel’ also maintained that they are only a prospecting company, but finally admitted that they will convert to a mining company when the time comes.

Dolomitic eyes are geological formations where groundwater from aquifers is forced through fractures in the earth to the surface. The ecology in these areas is dependent on the surface water and groundwater and any alterations or disturbances to these will obviously affect entire ecosystems. Eyes are incredibly sensitive and unique landscape features with unique ecosystems and biodiversity found nowhere else.

No wonder the Groot Marico Eye is such a popular diving site. It is amazing to discover this pure, untainted, crystal clear body of water in the middle of the hot and dry Bushveld. The water is so clear that water lily leaves under the surface look close enough to touch, yet when you reach in they are meters below.

Drilling, even for prospecting alone, may alter normal water flow. Chemicals used in the drilling process enter the water systems and can cause irreversible damage. Other chemicals and/or heavy metals may also be released as the layers of the earth are disturbed. Once again, this pollution is irreversible.

By interfering with the natural flow routes of water, water levels could actually be reduced at the eyes.

Now, imagine a mine in this area! Mining will have a massive impact on the supply of water downstream – from the points of both quantity and quality. The Groot Marico Eyes and catchment area are very important ecologically and are a conservation priority.

Clearly rehabilitation will be impossible! In any event ‘African Nickel’ shows a callous attitude towards rehabilitation. An example of this is shown in the budget of one their prospecting programs – the amount budgeted for stationery and cell phones is more than the amount they intend to spend on rehabilitation. Anyway, mining houses are notorious for declaring bankruptcy when it comes to “rehabilitation”.

There is nothing African about ‘African Nickel’: 74% of the Company is registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and its BEE partner, ‘Sephaku’, sold its 26% shareholding to Chinese investors during the week ending 18 June 2010.

No job opportunities will be created since (according to ‘African Nickel’s own document) “nickel mining is highly technical and highly mechanized, employing skilled, highly paid personnel”.

The directorate of ‘African Nickel’, on their own statement, stand to make exceptional amounts of money, and Director Richard Hornsey described the company as “better the devil you know”.

‘African Nickel’ has not followed procedure at any stage of their application. They neglected to inform much of the Groot Marico community of their application for prospecting, and many locals were sent letters from them with insufficient postage, which had to be paid in order to receive the letters. Many letters were posted past the due date. A few members of the community who received notification called for a meeting with African Nickel and informed other members of the community of African Nickel’s existence. At this meeting on 15 May 2010, three hundred locals stood up against ‘African Nickel’ and formed a committee to spearhead the action against ‘African Nickel’. This Committee formed an association called MALEPA – the Marico Land and Environmental Protection Association, which has an extensive membership of land owners, land residents and other IAP’s.

African Nickel is clearly attempting to place the affected community at a disadvantage by not properly informing us of what they intend doing and thereby depriving us of our constitutional rights to be heard.

At meetings on 10 June 2010, held at the Regional Manager’s office of the Department of Mineral Reserves in Klerksdorp, attended by representatives of African Nickel, MALEPA, and other affected parties, the Regional Mining Development and Environmental Committee (REMDEC) gave African Nickel two months to get their house in order.

MALEPA is currently launching a full investigation into African Nickel’s activities and if any fraudulent practices are uncovered we will refer the matter to the NPA.

If the Marico catchment area is destroyed it is gone forever – and this for the sake of maybe ten years (if that) of greed to line the pockets of foreigners and a few unscrupulous locals.

South Africa is a water impoverished country. The region through which the Groot Marico River flows is dry. These waters are more valuable than the minerals African Nickel seeks to extract. Any sentient being with a modicum of sense and intelligence will say: “preserve at all costs”.

Nickel mining is a toxic enterprise, which requires very strict controls. In many parts of the world it is no longer allowed. Can we be so naïve as to allow it here?

This enterprise must not be allowed to happen. Please help us to raise awareness of this evil so that we can fight it successfully. If we lose this battle, the lives and livelihoods of thousands will be destroyed, as well as a rare, precious and irreplaceable ecosystem . Our very special Groot Marico, with its fascinating cultural heritage and unique feel will cease to exist.

Nature’s bounty is not infinite and should not be taken for granted.

Please email comments and objections to prospecting and mining in the Groot Marico area to info (at)

Please petition here:

Us on Facebook.

We thank you for your time and support.
Warm regards,
Community of Groot Marico

Santa van Bart
Groot Marico Information Centre
info (at)
083 272 2958


  1. Hey People

    This little town features a bunch of really lovely people who are nature, community and spirit concise, there are allot of good things happening in Groot Marico, Ram Pumps, Organic Gardening, Alternative power, Small Permaculture projects, Buddhist Temple, Tipi’s, Cob Housing, Community Gatherings, Nature reserves, Fishing, Sound Journeys and Drum Circles… and a whole bunch of exciting stuff.

    Please help us by signing the petition

    So that you will have a lovely place to come visit
    swim in crystal spring water, drink it while you swim, help out on a Permaculture Project, gather with the community, play some instruments, share and soak up the Beauty and Tranquility of the lovely Marico

    Ps : Find the Happy Toes Farm ( ) and get your feet dirty.

  2. “In principle, there are basically three ways to influence the choices people make:

    1. Regulate what people cannot do and punish violations.

    2. Offer incentives to encourage certain choices.

    3. Provide information that rings so true it compels good choices.

    If you believe that, for the most part, people want to do the right
    thing, the most effective and peaceful method of influencing good decisions is to provide good information so the right thing becomes self-evident.

    For example, Maine has historically had one of the highest teen smoking rates in the nation. We have made laws against teen smoking and punished violators. We have created incentives against smoking such as high taxes on cigarettes. These have not had satisfactory results.

    Only recently has the rate dramatically declined and it is because we launched an information campaign that made the detrimental health effects of cigarette smoking clear. We provided truthful information on television and radio. For all those teens who want to do the right thing, it’s now clear what that is.

    Practical Tip: Provide all decision makers with the best possible information about the issue being considered. Good, truthful information is extremely compelling.

    Actually, good information is the only thing that is truly compelling and results in sustainable decisions.”

    Craig Freshley

    Keep on providing information that rings so true it compels good choices. You surely do in this article!

  3. I can completely agree that this mining operation is just totally bad for everyone except a few individuals to pocket the money; my question is of those farmers who might negatively be affected how many are the descendants of the Traditional Owners (Tswana, Xhosa or Griqua) ? If the nation of South Africa is going to halt this operation shouldn’t it be because many varying people with different levels (and scales) of agriculture benefit rather than a priviledged few ?

  4. Hi Santa van Bart

    Just a couple of immediate thoughts on this one.

    You really need to raise the National and International profile of what “African Nickel” are up to. A bad international press, especially on an ecological issue, (following hot on the heals of BP’s oil disaster) could hurt them financially.

    Can you get a delegation to Nelson Mandela, make as much noise as you can. When Mandela speaks the world listens!

    Remember the ANC and the “Freedom Charter”? The ANC has taken a lot of bad press on the Freedom Charter but if you could make it an issue you may force them to take action to regain general support. (There’s a lot more that could be said on this, however my feeling is to make this whole “African Nickel”, with its foreign investors, a very big Freedom Charter issue).

    You could also try and invoke International Law and the United Nations to slow down the process. Equally the human rights issue would put you in the international spotlight as would appeals to the various International Human Rights Tribunals.

    Not an easy path to tread.


  5. I am a resident of Molatedi Village and with due respect i would like to apeal to those who passby/visit our river/dam (Molatedi)and just decides to throw rubbish in the water…first of all, some of us drink that water and if you try it as well you would be amazed at just how tastey the water is and even better than bottled water as it is always cool and CLEAN!!!
    i believe that when walking around you will not see rubbish anywhere because every household has a hole dug in the compound for such rubbish, which could be a solution to other villages around the country.
    We often see how people litters their own environment on television forgetting that they will need that water,but if you are to visit our heaven please DO NOT LITTER!!!
    I would also like to thank the people who created this website
    it thrills me to be able to go on to the net and find pictures of places i grew up with so heavenly memories…many thanks!!!

  6. Keep up the fight for the sake of the Groot Marico River and your beautiful town and area.

  7. i was born in molatedi and my grandfather is Joseph Matlapeng…. i heard about this over the weekend and surely i wont support any form of mining going to happen in my ancestoral home. Why are mining companies from abroad come over here and want to destroy our homes and our lands. im going to take this up with relevant authorties, i will cause havock i promise you

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