Report on the heritage impact assessment for the proposed development at the EXXARO Eerstelingfontein NDC Coal Mine near Belfast in Mpumalanga Province


Archaetnos cc was requested by WSP Environmental (Pty) Ltd to conduct a heritage impact assessment (HIA) for the proposed Eerstelingsfontein coal mine close to Belfast in the Mpumalanga Province.

The Terms of Reference for the survey were to identify, document and assess all objects, sites, occurrences and structures of cultural heritage importance located on the property. Furthermore suitable mitigation measures relating to the identified cultural heritage resources had to be proposed.

A survey of the available literature was undertaken in order to obtain background information regarding the area. This was followed by a field survey conducted according to generally accepted HIA practices endorsed by SAHRA and ASAPA. The survey was done in an area indicated by officials from the mine.

Legislation relevant to heritage was also discussed. The most important of these are the National Heritage Resources Act (25 of 1999).

During the survey two sites of heritage significance was located. These are discussed and recommendations relating to the mitigation thereof are made. The proposed development may continue in lieu of the recommendations made in this report.

Site number 1 is a grave yard and has a high cultural significance. As this will only be impacted on indirectly it is recommended that the site be fenced in and that a management plane be written. However, a risk assessment is made in order for the mine to make an informed decision whether it would perhaps be better to have the graves exhumed and have the bodies reburied. For this a process of social consultation is needed. This process is a lengthy process and one should try to obtain the permission of families. In the case of graves older than 60 years and those with an unknown date of death archaeologist as well as an undertaker will have to be part of the team involved. For graves with a date of death of younger than 60 years, only an undertaker is involved.

Site number 2 is a farm yard and is of a medium cultural significance. It may be demolished, but for this a permit from SAHRA is needed.

It should be noted that the subterranean presence of archaeological and/or historical sites, features or artifacts is always a distinct possibility. Care should therefore be taken when destruction commences that if any of these are discovered, a qualified archaeologist be called in to investigate.

Report by

Dr. A.C. van Vollenhoven (L.AKAD.SA.)
Anton J. Pelser