Vele coal mine

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Vele coal mine is a coking mine, owned by MC Mining, set to produce 1.5 million tonnes per annum, in Limpopo province, South Africa.

According to owner MC Mining, production at Vele started in 2012, however, it was put on care and maintenance the following year. With production remaining halted since 2013, the mine is considered mothballed.[1]


The map below shows the exact location of the project, in Musina municipality, Vhembe district, Limpopo province.

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Vele colliery is a coking coal mine project by MCMining, formerly Coal of Africa Limited (CoAL), located in Limpopo Province. The mine has estimated recoverable reserves of 361 million tons (Mt) of metallurgical coal.[2]

After opposition to the R1bn project, as it is located around the Limpopo-based world heritage site called Mapungubwe National Park, Coal of Africa CEO John Wallington said in September 2011 that production was expected to start during the first half of 2012.[3] However, Coal of Africa Limited subsequently had severe cash flow problems in the following years, and was unable to start mining at Vele or elsewhere.[4] After a switch to a new CEO, the company re-engineered the Vele project, which required a new water use license and new regulatory approvals.[5]

By February 2018, the company said it had received all necessary permits, but was still weighing whether or not to start mining at Vele.[6] In March 2019, MC Mining said it was planning to start "plant modifications" at Vele, following which the mine would be able to start producing 540,000 tons of coking coal and 570,000 tons of thermal coal per year. MC Mining was expected to start mining at Vele by 2020.[7][8]

However, as of August 2020, MC Mining's website indicated that the Vele Colliery was still on care and maintenance.[9] An article from May 2020 indicated that Vele Colliery had been impacted by the a 21-day national lockdown in response to the coronavirus.[10]

Opposition to mine

The mine has been opposed by environmentalists and local residents. The proposed mine was originally planned to be commissioned in late 2010.[11]

CoAL was granted a water use license for the mine on April 4, 2011. A coalition of non-profit organisations (NGOs) said they would appeal the license. The Vele colliery is located outside the Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site, and the coalition said the granting of the water license would damage the area’s water sources.[12]

Shortly after environmental groups flagged their intention to appeal against the decision, CoAL Chief executive John Wallington was asked whether the company would abandon the project. "That may happen. We may need to do that," he said.[13]

The Vele project was suspended in August 2011 when the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) ordered CoAL to stop work because of the alleged violations of the National Environmental Management Act. The company sent a petition to the DEA in August 2011, requesting Minister Edna Molewa to lift the suspension. The company said it had already spent about R600m in capital at Vele, which was 95% complete and already producing coal when development was halted. Wallington also said CoAL’s second major coking coal project in Limpopo’s Makhado region - the Makhado coal mine - was also progressing, with an application for a new order mining right already made and preparations continuing for regulatory approval.[14][15]

License suspension lifted

On October 19, 2011, Reuters reported that shares in Coal of Africa jumped as much as 21 percent after South Africa lifted the suspension of a key licence at its Vele colliery, allowing the miner to press ahead with plans to start production in 2012.[16]

Mapungubwe Heritage Site

Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism has conducted research on prospecting permits near Vele and its threat to the Mapungubwe National Park. According to Oxpeckers investigative team,

"The prospecting is taking place in one of South Africa’s most water-stressed regions. Water from the Limpopo river is already overcommitted, regional droughts are the norm, and environmentalists have been asking for years where the water will be found for mining activities that could result from the prospecting.[17]

Groups opposing the project

Project Details

  • Operator: MC Mining
  • Parent Company: MC Mining
  • Location: Musina municipality, Vhembe District, Limpopo Province
  • GPS Coordinates: -22.173056, 29.680278 (exact)
  • Status: Mothballed
  • Production Capacity: 1.2 - 1.5 Mtpa[18]
  • Total Resource: 361 Mt[9]
  • Mineable Reserves: 325.2 Mt[9]
  • Coal Type: Bituminous (Thermal)[9][19]
  • Mine Size: 8,663 hectares[20]
  • Mine Type: Underground, open cast[18]
  • Number of Employees: 700
  • Start Year: 2012[21]
  • Source of Financing:

Resources and articles


  1. Vele Colliery, MC Mining, accessed October 2022.
  2. Vele Colliery, MC Mining website, accessed June 2019.
  3. Luphert Chilwane, "Coal Mine to Start in 2012" The New Age, Sep. 20, 2011.
  4. Coal in southern Africa: MC Mining, new name and new focus, Mining Review Africa, 6 Mar. 2018.
  5. MC Mining’s Brown weighs Vele, once SA’s most controversial mine, Mining MX, 4 Apr. 2018.
  6. MC Mining gets go-ahead to restart Vele colliery, Limpopo Mirror, 18 Feb. 2018.
  7. Phase 1 of MC Mining’s Makhado project approved, Mining Weekly, 14 Mar. 2019.
  8. MC Mining gets approval for Makhado coal mine development, Mining Technology, 14 Mar. 2019.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 "DOCUMENTS," "MC Mining website," accessed August 2020.
  10. "MC Mining: Recommencement of coal production and lockdown update," "Global Mining Review," May 6, 2020.
  11. Bheki Mpofu, "Coal of Africa to complete Vele project in third quarter", Business Day, April 29, 2010.
  12. Loni Prinsloo, "NGOs ready to appeal CoAL’s Vele water licence" Mining Weekly, April 7, 2011.
  13. Lucky Biyase, "Vele coal project might be abandoned: Coal of Africa faces ongoing court action and government bungling", Times Live, April 16, 2011.
  14. Luphert Chilwane, "Coal Mine to Start in 2012" The New Age, Sep. 20, 2011.
  15. "CoaL shirks legal green obligations with big promises" Business Report, August 24 2011
  16. "Coal of Africa shares jump on Vele licence decision" Reuters, Oct. 19, 2011.
  17. Oxpeckers, New mining threat at Mapungubwe heritage site, Feburary 27, 2020
  18. 18.0 18.1 "VELE PROFILE," "Coal of Africa Limited," 2016.
  19. "OPERATING AND DEVELOPING COAL MINES IN THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA, 2014," "Department of Mineral Resources: Republic of South Africa," 2014.
  20. "Vele Colliery Mine next to the Mapungubwe National Park in Limpopo, South Africa", Environmental Justice Atlas, accessed October 2022.
  21. Operations MC Mining, accessed October 2022.

External articles