South African wineries start petition to halt sand mines being built in iconic Swartland

South African wineries start petition to halt sand mines being built in iconic Swartland

South African winemakers in the highly influential and important wine region of Swartland are facing the prospect of two large sand mines being built in the area of Paardeberg.

This follows the decision by the local Municipality to issue two new sand mine licences. A move that has galvanised support across  both the South African wine industry plus also the international wine community.

A petition launched by the Protect the Paardeberg coalition a few days ago has so far been signed by close to 2,500 people.

What is particularly disappointing for local Swartland winemakers is that the decision to issue the licenses has been two years in the making and follows many serious debates on the issue.  The coalition has been involved in a two-year legal battle against the plans.

Last week Swartland winemaker Eben Sadie said he was “gobsmacked” by the Swartland Municipality’s decision to plough ahead and grant the new licenses for sand mining in the Aprilskloof and Siebritskloof areas.

Wines of South Africa (WOSA), said it was a “true blow” to the region’s winemakers.  Siobahn Thompson, chief executive of WOSA, said that the wine industry remain unconvinced that there would not be considerable damage done to grapes and vines because of the mines. It would also hit tourism in the area.

She said: “The decision to grant mining permits in the Swartland region comes as a true blow to the regional wine fraternity, who have worked hard over the past 10 years to establish themselves both locally and internationally as top quality wine producers and [have been] getting immense acclaim for their produce,” said Thompson.

“Due consideration to the full extent of the damage to both the wine and tourism industries should be given before soils are lost and damage is done to the wine industry and the broader agriculture sector.”

Two sand mining sites are currently operating in the Swartland region, while a further two have just been approved by the Swartland Municipality. A further sand mining operation is currently under consideration.

Martin Coetzee from the Protect Paardeberg Coalition said that although sand mining in the Paardeberg is currently limited, the new permits could set an unwanted precedent that would have an adverse impact on the sustainability of the wine and wine tourism industries.

Rico Basson, managing director of VinPro, added: “Sustainable development is a crucial pillar of the South African wine industry. Any developments that may damage the environment will be strongly opposed. We condemn illegal activities and where there have been transgressions, the law must take its course.”

In response the Swartland Municipality said: “The municipality tribunal’s decision is currently subject to an appeal process. The issuing of a general statement in this regard is presently being considered by the municipality.”

The coalition has been given until March 3 to lodge an appeal against the decision.

  • If you wanted to put your name to the Paardeberg petition then what it stands for and signing information can be viewed here.
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