A report on a cultural heritage impact assessment for the NBC Glisa Colliery Block B extension opencast project, close to Belfast, Mpumalanga Province


Archaetnos cc was requested by GCS to conduct a cultural heritage impact assessment for the proposed Block B Extension Opencast Project at the NBC GlisaColliery. As the name indicates, this project will consist of an opencast coal mining operation. 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 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) process. Additionally a grave site on the larger mining area also had to be assessed in order to make recommendations for the rehabilitation plan of the mine.

The 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. Study background information on the area to be developed;

3. Assess the significance of the cultural resources in terms of their archaeological, historical, scientific, social, religious, aesthetic and tourism value;

4. Describe the possible impact of the proposed development on these cultural remains, according to a standard set of conventions;

5. Recommend suitable mitigation measures to minimize possible negative impacts on the cultural resources by the proposed development; and

6. Review applicable legislative requirements.
Aspects concerning the conservation of cultural resources are dealt with mainly in two acts. These are the National Heritage Resources Act (Act No. 25 of 1999) and the National Environmental Management Act (Act No. 107 of 1998).

According to the National Heritage Resources Act (Act No. 25 of 1999) 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; and
i. Objects, structures and sites or scientific or technological value.
In terms of Section 36(3) of the National Heritage Resources Act (Act No. 25 of 1999), no person may, without a permit issued by the relevant heritage resources authority:

a. Destroy, damage, alter, exhume or remove from its original position of otherwise disturb the grave of a victim of conflict, or any burial ground or part thereof which contains such graves;
b. Destroy, damage, alter, exhume or remove from its original position or otherwise disturb any grave or burial ground older than 60 years which is situated outside a formal cemetery administered by a local authority;
c. Bring onto or use at a burial ground or grave referred to in paragraph (a) or (b) any excavation, or any equipment which assists in the detection or recovery of metals.
The HIA survey was conducted according to generally accepted HIA practices and was aimed at locating all possible objects, sites and features of cultural significance in the area of proposed development. One sometimes looks a bit wider than the demarcated area, as the surrounding context needs to be taken into consideration.

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. The Block B Extension consists of two separate areas, the one being 31.8 Ha and the other 114.6 Ha. As indicated the grave site in the other area was also assessed.

All sites, objects features and structures identified were documented according to the general minimum standards accepted by the archaeological profession. Co-ordinates of individual localities were determined by means of the Global Positioning System (GPS). The information was added to the description in order to facilitate the identification of each locality.

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.
Almost the entire surveyed portion is a totally disturbed environment. The area where the graves are situated have already been extensively disturbed by mining activities.

No site of cultural heritage significance was located in the surveyed area. The grave site is located in another mining area to the east thereof.

Due to a lack of research the prehistory of the Belfast area is not very well known. Although this does influence the ideas of what can be expected on site, this is countered by the environmental knowledge of typical settings for where these sites are usually located.

The grave site that was assessed is the remains of a graveyard inside of an area that had been mined recently. It consists of more or less 32 graves, mostly marked by stone dressing. The graves are mostly older than 60 years or of an unknown date and are therefore considered to be heritage graves.

Due to the sensitivity of this issue, graves are always regarded as having a high cultural significance. Graves with an unknown date are always handled as if older than 60 years. Graves older as 60 years are regarded as heritage graves.

EIA Ranking:

Pre-Construction Phase: No ranking since this phase has been completed.

Construction Phase: No ranking since this phase has been completed.

Operational Phase: No ranking since this phase has been completed.

Closure and Decommissioning Phase: See Appendix F

Cumulative impacts: See Appendix F.
The survey of the indicated area was completed successfully. As nothing of heritage importance was identified, the proposed development can continue.

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.

The grave site should be handled with due consideration during any further activities on site. Mitigation measures are proposed and should be implemented.

Report by

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