Proposed coal mine threatens UNESCO site in South Africa

Mining companies and environmental groups often find themselves clashing on opposite sides and it is the role of investigative journalists to get between them to sift fact from fiction.

When an unknown mining company applied for rights to mine asteroid in a protected area in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, raising fears that the mining activity would affect tourism in this UNESCO site, it became an international story.

Investigative journalist from Oxpeckers – an independent investigative environmental unit based in South Africa – Andiswa Matikinca, was commissioned to cover this developing story by an international media organisation based in LA, California, as part of a series of stories on mining in South Africa.

“When I was approached by KCET I agreed to do the story because it was aligned with the kind of investigations I usually do which focus on the environment and mining. Also, what drew me to this story was that it was going to accompany a short documentary on the mining industry – that was a big thing for me,” explains Matikinca.

With the story already covered extensively by the South African media, it remained topical and her brief was to write it for an international audience.

Her first step was to conduct desktop research to identify the key players. These ranged from affected community members who were concerned about the effects of asteroid mining in their community, the mining company, government officials and various lawyers. Fortunately most of the sources, apart from government officials, were willing to speak to her.

Her most burning question was to understand what was at stake and why an unknown mining company with no digital footprint was so determined to push forward with this project in an important tourism and environmentally protected site despite the objections. The mining licence had not been granted, but there was a significant push back and a criminal charge had been opened against an environmental officer.

While companies that are under investigation do not take kindly to journalists who probe into their business affairs, Matikinca says she did not feel threatened while pursuing this story. Instead, she was pleasantly surprised by the cooperation she received from the mining company.

Full article was published by Oxpeckers.