THE Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) yesterday expressed serious concerns over the "uncontrolled increase in open-cast mining of coal in Mpumalanga", calling on the government to investigate its risk to the country’s food security.
The chamber’s worries follow the release last week of the scathing report by University of Pretoria-based research organisation Bureau for Food and Agriculture Policy (BFAP). The report evaluated the effect of coal mining on agriculture in the Delmas, Ogies and Leandra districts, focusing on maize production.
It warned that in the long run, mining in Mpumalanga risked reducing maize production — in one of the most productive regions in SA for grain and oilseed — by 447,581 tons of maize a year, which would result in an average annual price rise of R300/ton.
The report said average maize prices were projected to increase by about 14 %, which in turn would cause maize meal prices to rise by about 5%, which would affect SA’s poorest, who depend on maize as a staple food.
John Purchase, the CEO of Agbiz, said SA was losing land with a high potential for sustainable maize and soyabean production to unsustainable coal mining at an alarming rate.
SA has only 1.5% of high-potential arable soils best suited for cash crop production, and 46.4% of this total crop area was in Mpumalanga.
At the present rate of coal mining development in Mpumalanga, about 12% of SA’s high-potential arable land would be transformed, while a further 13.6% was being prospected by the mines, the report said.
BFAP undertook an environmental impact analysis, saying that, based on previous published studies, high-potential soils that were mined "would never be rehabilitated back to the state or potential" which they had previously had.
This meant that Mpumalanga had potentially lost about 26% (225,217ha) of its high-potential arable soils to mining activities, the report said.
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