South African Vintners Angry over Mining Permits in Swartland Wine Region

Digging up sand for construction firms on vineyard properties would destroy the local beauty, they argue.

A local government in one of South Africa’s most promising premium wine regions, the Swartland, has granted permits for sand-mining on two properties, angering winemakers who worry the region’s natural beauty will be ruined by mining equipment among the vines. They are appealing the decision.

The Swartland Municipality Tribunal granted permission for mining sand for use in the building industry at two farms on the slopes of the Paardeberg mountain on Feb. 10. The Swartland district is home to well-known wine names such as Sadie Family Wines, A.A. Badenhorst Family Wines and Lammershoek, all of whom own vineyards likely to be impacted by the decision.

According to Eben Sadie, winemaker and a member of the Protect the Paardeberg Coalition, the fight has been going on for two years as the government considered the application. “This area has always been agricultural, so it’s not as if we started farming in a mining area,” said Sadie. “We’ve invested in agriculture to keep it sustainable for future generations and it’s terrible to think that all this might now be lost for some short-term gain.”

The Swartland Municipality responded to the objections with a statement: “The Municipality Tribunal’s decision is currently subject to an appeal process.”

Adi Badenhorst from A.A. Badenhorst Family Wines says that there is plenty of sand available outside the agricultural zone, but mining on the Paardeberg reduces the distance between the mines and the sand’s final destination dramatically, cutting costs. “It was quite a shock you know!” said Badenhorst.

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