Conflict Over Energy Policy at South African Coal Mine
In the horizon are the mountains, verdant rainforest on their well-watered, shaded southern slopes and arid scrub on the dry reverse slopes. Then there is the plain, studded with baobab trees and outcrops. Finally there is the river Limpopo. Beyond is another country: troubled, restive Zimbabwe.
But here in the far north-east of South Africa, there is tension, too. In the Soutpansberg range and on the flat lands beyond, an improbable coalition of local farmers, villagers, big agricultural businessmen and activists are fighting to halt the development of a large opencast mine which, they say, would cause massive harm to the region.
The mine lies 30km north of the small town of Makhado. A South African company hopes it can extract some 5.5m tonnes of coking and heating coal for use locally and for export from a narrow and remote valley. Government officials broadly back the project, which developers argue will bring wealth to both the developing nation and to local people.
But campaigners fear the Makhado mine will wreak much damage, and that if it goes ahead much larger projects will follow, leading to the loss of irreplaceable cultural and biological resources.