Magnificent Waterberg Massif in South Africa

Magnificent Waterberg Massif in South Africa

Although there are significant deposits of coal in the Waterberg district about 350km north of Johannesburg in South Africa, several factors have prevented extensive exploitation of what has historically been known as the Ellisras Coal Basin.

The most notable constraint is a shortage of water. Although the region is one of the most important water sources in South Africa, it is water scarce and ecologically extremely sensitive.

The Mokolo, Lephalala and Mokgalakwena rivers start their journey’s high up in the Waterberg massif and all feed the mighty Limpopo River, which forms the boundary between Botswana and South Africa and South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Coal was found in the Ellisras Basin in 1920. More than 143 diamond-drill holes and two prospecting shafts were sunk between 1941 and 1952 to obtain a geological map of the Waterberg Coalfield.

State owned company Iscor bought the surface rights on six farms in 1957, and in 1973 began intensive exploration to assess the quantity and quality of coal on this property. Iscor bought the mining lease on the farms in 1979 and established the Grootegeluk Coal Mine in 1980. In 2005 this open-pit colliery was the only coal operation in the coalfield.

Exxaro Resources started operating the Grootegeluk coal mine, supplying Eskom‘s coal-fired Matimba Power Station. In 2007 Exxaro obtained a contract to supply Eskom’s new Medupi Power Station, which is also in the Waterberg.

The Waterberg supplies water for the Medupi power station. Additional water for the power station is transferred from the Crocodile River in Gauteng.

Today only 4% of the Waterberg water source area is under formal protection. This includes a section of the Marakele National Park as well as private nature reserves and game farms.

However, the Waterberg is an important node for the Limpopo Conservation Plan due to the presence of critical biodiversity areas and river ecosystems that are vital biodiversity corridors.

Magnificent Waterberg Massif in South Africa
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