A court interdict has been issued to prevent mining activities at a national heritage site.

AN INTERNATIONAL TEAM OF ARCHAEOLOGISTS WORKING AT CANTEEN KOPJE : The heritage site has since been damaged by mining. Source: Sapiens.org

UPDATED: On Tuesday April 9, the McGregor Museum was granted a final court order to prevent any unlawful mining activity from taking place at the National Heritage Site at Canteen Kopje. Archaeologists from Wits University, who were in the process of excavating the site when the mining began, assisted the museum in the form of support and advice to the legal team.  This, however, will not be the the final dispute surrounding the Canteen Kopje site.

The McGregor Museum, Wits University and the Sol Plaatje Museum have requested a review of the decisions that were made by the Department of Mineral Resources that led to a mining permit being granted in the first instance.


Interdict awaits response

The interdict seeks to prevent the Jacky M Wesi Mining Company from mining at Canteen Kopje, which was declared a national heritage site 70 years ago, when it was discovered that it contained stone tools from 2.3 million years ago. The area is also rich in diamonds and includes sites being excavated by Wits University scientists. The mining company has until Friday April 8 to respond to the interdict.

Jacki M Wesi company have begun mining at the site

The Department of Minerals and Energy granted Jacky M Wesi Mining Company a permit to mine a portion of the site in 2014. The South African Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra) obtained a cease order which was in effect until March 16. Much to the outrage of the archaeological community, Jacky M Wesi Mining began work  as soon as the cease order was lifted and, according to David Morris, the head of archaeology at the McGregor Museum, an area of about 80m x 80m and 6m deep has been damaged. Public access to the site has been stopped and the area has been fenced in.

In a statement posted on the agency’s website on April 1, Sahra said it had not issued a permit for mining at Canteen Kopje, nor had it received a formal application for such activity.

Wits professor emphasises importance of artifacts

Kathleen Kuman, professor emeritus from the Wits archaeology department told Business Day Live: “Various locations excavated over the years at this site preserve a lengthy archaeological sequence, [these include] the earliest stone tools, the Middle and Later Stone Ages, and historic deposits that document the first contact between local inhabitants and the earliest miners in SA.”