Protect Mineral Assets to benefit Future Generations
The phenomenal technical development in the World over the previous 150 years has been largely based on the utilization of mineral assets. The availability of electricity and the abundance of metals and industrial minerals in the market have made mega factories and development projects normal practice. Enormous prosperity has been created and apart from the superrich, a flourishing professional middle class has been created in the developed and many of the developing countries. Interestingly it is many of those prosperous people who now want to sit back and enjoy ‘pristine’ nature on their doorstep, because they can afford it. The fact that there are many people who still live in extreme poverty is a tragedy, but a widespread perception is that Governments must solve it. The popular opinion ‘Save the environment for our children at all cost’ has become so strong that anybody who dares to challenge it is branded as irresponsible and criminal. The same environmental activists want to have all the modern luxuries for example electricity (preferably cheap) without coal fired or nuclear power stations. They want to live in a world with pristine scenery, safe reliable transport and good communications, without mining or industrial pollution. The natural mineral deposits of any country are a national asset just as its water resources, agricultural land or wild life, with one important difference; mineral deposits are finite and not renewable. Any action, which wastes or sterilizes economically viable mineral assets, even if it will only become mineable in the future, should be considered against national interest and posterity. In the South African context it can be argued that it is unconstitutional to sterilize mineral assets irresponsibly. Sterilization contravenes the objective of the Mineral Resources and Petroleum Development Act which states that mineral assets should be developed to the benefit of the nation. This results in a conflict between minerals and environmental legislation, including land use. A balance or a responsible moral high ground needs to be defined and that is the objective and ideal outcome of this symposium.
Willem Van Der Schyff and Henk Lingenfelder