A report on a cultural heritage impact assessment for the NBC Glisa Water Treatment Project, close to Belfast, Mpumalanga Province


Archaetnos cc was requested by GCS to conduct a cultural heritage impact assessment for a proposed Water Treatment Plant (WTP) at the NBC Glisa Colliery. The mine is situated on the farm Paardeplaats 380 JT, close to Belfast in the Mpumalanga Province.

The study is done with the purpose of an EIA and EMP process. Three different sites were investigated in order to enable the selection of the one suited best for this purpose.

The basic Terms of Reference for the survey were to:

1. Identify objects, sites, occurrences and structures of an archaeological or historical nature (cultural heritage sites) located on the property.
2. Assess the significance of the cultural resources in terms of their archaeological, historical, scientific, social, religious, aesthetic and tourism value.
3. Describe the possible impact of the proposed development on these cultural remains, according to a standard set of conventions.
4. Recommend suitable mitigation measures to minimize possible negative impacts on the cultural resources by the proposed development.
5. Review applicable legislative requirements.
Cultural Resources are all non-physical and physical man-made occurrences, as well as natural occurrences associated with human activity. These include all sites, structure and artifacts of importance, either individually or in groups, in the history, architecture and archaeology of human (cultural) development. Graves and cemeteries are included in this.

The significance of the sites, structures and artifacts is determined by means of their historical, social, aesthetic, technological and scientific value in relation to their uniqueness, condition of preservation and research potential. The various aspects are not mutually exclusive, and the evaluation of any site is done with reference to any number of these aspects.

Cultural significance is site-specific and relates to the content and context of the site. Sites regarded as having low cultural significance have already been recorded in full and require no further mitigation. Sites with medium cultural significance may or may not require mitigation depending on other factors such as the significance of impact on the site.

Aspects concerning the conservation of cultural resources are dealt with mainly in two acts. These are the National Heritage Resources Act (Act 25 of 1999) and the National Environmental Management Act (Act 107 of 1998).

The following is protected as cultural heritage resources:

a. Archaeological artifacts, structures and sites older than 100 years
b. Ethnographic art objects (e.g. prehistoric rock art) and ethnography
c. Objects of decorative and visual arts
d. Military objects, structures and sites older than 75 years
e. Historical objects, structures and sites older than 60 years
f. Proclaimed heritage sites
g. Grave yards and graves older than 60 years
h. Meteorites and fossils
i. Objects, structures and sites or scientific or technological value.
A survey of 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, aimed at locating all possible objects, sites and features of cultural significance in the area of proposed development.

If required, the location/position of any site was determined by means of a Global Positioning System (GPS), while photographs were also taken where needed. If applicable, people from local communities are interviewed in order to obtain information relating to the surveyed area.

The evaluation of heritage sites is done by giving a field rating of each using the following criteria:

• The unique nature of a site
• The integrity of the archaeological deposit
• The wider historic, archaeological and geographic context of the site
• The location of the site in relation to other similar sites or features
• The depth of the archaeological deposit (when it can be determined or is known)
• The preservation condition of the site
• Uniqueness of the site and
• Potential to answer present research questions.
The appearance of the surveyed areas is as follows:

  • At Option 1 the vegetation consist of medium tall grass and weeds as well as a few eucalyptus trees. Although disturbed, the grass cover is very dense. Most of the area seems to be a wetland.
  • At Option 1B it is clear that the area has been disturbed before. This most likely is the result of earlier mining activities. The vegetation cover consists of medium long grass with a dense ground cover.
  • At Option 2 the grass is reasonably high, and also has dense ground coverage. It also is fairly close to a wetland area.

The only gap in knowledge is that due to a lack of research the prehistory of the Belfast area is not very well known. At none of the three options any site of cultural heritage significance was located. Therefore, from a heritage perspective there is no particular preference for any of the three options investigated. Any one of these can be used for the Water Treatment Plant.

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 development commences that if any of these are discovered, a qualified archaeologist be called in to investigate the occurrence.


Report by

Dr. A.C. van Vollenhoven (L.AKAD.SA.)