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Exxaro Leeuwpan Mining Project, South Africa


Exxaro Leeuwpan Colliery is expanding, threatening national water and food security by destroying wetlands and pans, and disrupting river flows. Activists claim that their advance into the Weltevreden Pan is illegal.

The Leeuwpan Colliery is located on the Mpumalanga Highveld, less than five kilometres from the town of Delmas, South Africa, approximately 65 kilometres East of Johannesburg. The Highveld is rich in coal reserves and numerous coal mining companies are exploiting these reserves. This region has some of South Africa’s most productive arable land, and is of strategic importance for South Africa’s national food and water security.

The farm Weltevreden forms part of the Leeuwpan operation and Exxaro has obtained a valid mining right for this farm. They did not however secure a Water License for this property, which makes mining on the farm illegal.

The conflict started early in 2012, when a local farmer laid charges against Exxaro for mining illegally in a wetland referred to as the Weltevreden Pan, on the farm Weltevreden (Afrikaans for very satisfied). The Department of Water Affairs responded with a stop order, and various analyses of the case have been published in national media and NPO websites.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Exxaro Leeuwpan Mining Project, South Africa
Country:South Africa
State or province:Mpumalanga
Location of conflict:Delmas
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Coal extraction and processing
Specific commodities:Coal

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Extraction is taking place at a rate of 3 million tonnes of coal per annum at Leeuwpan Colliery.

Leeuwpan has a coal reserve base of about 143Mt and a resource of about 160Mt.

Project area:4067
Level of Investment:5210036000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:2,000
Start of the conflict:24/03/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Exxaro Resources Limited from South Africa
Relevant government actors:National Assembly, Democratic Alliance
International and Finance InstitutionsDeutsche Gesellschaft zur Zertifizierung von Managementsystemen (DQS) from Germany
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:media24., Beeld - a newspaper in the Media24 Group, one of the largest daily Afrikaans publications in South Africa., Centre for Environmental rights

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Global warming, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Mine tailing spills
Other Environmental impactsDestruction of Natural Water Bodies
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other Health impacts
Potential: Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Negotiated alternative solution
Application of existing regulations
Development of alternatives:Stopping the operation, withdrawing from areas mined illegally, and reinstating the original inhabitants and economy. Criminal Prosecution
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Once the Water Tribunal is reinstated, the directive issued by the Department of Water Affairs will again become valid. The outcome remains uncertain until that time.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

National Environmental Management Act (NEMA): The Minister of Water Affairs has been negligent in not reappointing members of the Water Tribunal. Exxaro used this situation in legal manoeuvrings to disempower legal enforcement agencies that tried to stop them on the Weltevreden farm.

Exxaros compliance with a request for information under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) was incomplete, but adequate to verify concerns.

Exxaro has shown gross non-compliance with the National Water Act (NWA). They are mining on the Weltevreden Farm without a water license. Specifically they are in violation of NWA regulations by practicing opencast activities inside the pan/wetland.

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Analysis on the High Court Judgement by the International Law Office

Coal Mining on the Highveld and its implications for future water quality in the Vaal river system. McCarty, Pretorius

Financial results and sustainability infgorstion for the 6-month period ended 30 June 30

Evaluating the impact of coal mining on agriculture in the Delmas, Ogies and Leandra districts: A focus on maize production. A report by BFAP, Compiled for the Maize Trust. Van der Burgh, Meyer, Coertzen reports/The impact of coal mining on agriculture -

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites


Exxaro’s statement on exploitation of wetlands

Farmer lodges complaint against exxaro. Mail & Gaurdian

Exxaro’s statement on the importance of Wetlands

Exxaro Company Profile.

Leeuwpan Profile.

Mining Weekly’s article on Leeuwpan’s Profile 2007.

Exxaro Justifies the legality of their operation

Court records of the High Court Appeal by Exxaro:

Parliamentary Reply to questions on Leeuwpan: 2115.pdf

Report on Leeuwpan by Elise Tempelhoff of Beeld.

Mining Weekly’s article on the merger of Eyesizwe and Kumba

Ways to kill a wetland

Natural Water Body threatened by large mining company

Exxaro’s statement on mining a portion of Leeuwpan, claiming the Weltevreden Pan is legitimately mined:

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Aint to Rest: Earthworks at Weltevreden Pan by Exxaro

Meta information

Contributor:Franz Fuls
Last update03/05/2014