Sadie ‘gobsmacked’ as Swartland opens door to sandmining

Swartland wine producers appear to have lost their legal battle to stop sandmining in Paardeberg, a move which Eben Sadie says threatens to undermine 20 years’ worth of work to establish Swartland as a prized winemaking region.

Eben Sadie believes that Swartland’s winemaking identity is under threat after licences were granted for sandmining operations in the Paardeberg region.

Sadie, who is widely credited with having put the Swartland region on the wine map, and whose Sadie Family Wines business is based in Paardeberg, told db he was “gobsmacked” at the Swartland Municipality’s decision to grant two new licences for sandmining operations in the Aprilskloof and Siebritskloof areas.

Along with neighbouring wineries Lammershoek and AA Badenhorst, various members of the Swartland Independent winemakers’ group and several private investors, Sadie has been involved in a two-year fight to block sandmining operations in Swartland. Those protesting arguing that mining and wine landscapes are not compatible and that mining threatens to deter investment in the region at a crucial time of its development.

The winemaker also pointed out that the Swartland Municipality’s own Spatial Development Framework for the Paardeberg – an official document setting out policy guidelines for sustainable development in the area – had earmarked it as a conservation area – a fact which the municipality’s decision appears to contradict.

“We were absolutely gobsmacked that this was granted,” Sadie said. “We actually can’t understand, with where this place is going, how they can allow that. It’s not cohesive with where the future of this place is viewed, even by the spatial development programme for the area. It’s completely taken the wind out of our sails.”

Eben Sadie is viewed as a winemaking pioneer of the Swartland region. In recent years, his terroir-focused Sadie Family Wines have become some of the most highly prized in South Africa. Sadie has frequently said the Paardeberg’s decomposed granite soils are the most viticulturally interesting in the country.

The granting of new sandmining licences, signed off on 10 February, according to Sadie, opens up the possibility that mining operations will now become a common sight the region, changing the landscape and destroying precious cultivatable land in a relatively small area that is already highly valued for vine growing. Sadie said the nature of the landscape “could completely change”.

“What we’re trying to explain to our municipality is that this is not affecting just two or three farmers,” he added. “Maybe these stand to have little financial gain but the whose area is going to get lost.

Two new sandmining operations have been granted permission to go ahead among the vineyards of Paardeberg, Swartland

“The effect is as far afield as people all over the globe who have been here, who love the place and buy the wine. The sustainable way forward is farming this area year on year, producing wines, creating job opportunities and generating appeal for our country – this is a sustainable future; the mining is a one-off that will pillage the area for the next few years, then they’re going to leave.

“They simply cannot co-exist,” he said. “If this was not an agricultural region we basically wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. But we didn’t set up our wineries and our projects in a mining area.

“The wineries and the vineyards and everything is the establishment, and this [sandmining] is going to invade that. It’s one thing setting up a vineyard in a mining area then expecting the mines to close down, but it’s completely perverse having a running agricultural sector, then just disregarding that sector and allowing basically land usage to go from agricultural to mining.”

The success of winemakers such as Eben Sadie and Adi Badenhorst, both of whom are based in Paardeberg, has drawn increasing international attention to the Swartland region in recent years. Sadie explained that there were a number of investors looking to develop wine tourism businesses in the region, who would inevitably be deterred by the presence of sandmining operations.

“There’s very many pending investments that want to come to this area,” he said, “and I think very many have waited for this to pan out so that they can know where to go. It’s definitely going to discourage investment but even more so it’s going to break 20 years of momentum in trying to build this very important new area in the world of wine-growing. It’s just going to break it at the worst time.

“I think it might survive it, but the pain and the wake of destruction is just going to be phenomenal. It just seems like the illogical move. For how far we’ve come in 20 years, there’s no logic to it.”

The winemaker said that there was still an opportunity to appeal against the Swartland Municipality’s decision to grant new sandmining licences. He is part of a coalition of farmers, winemakers and other interested parties called Protect the Paardeberg, who have prepared an petition against the decision, which they intend to present before a municipality tribunal in 21 days’ time.

Here is a link: Protect the Paardeberg petition.

A statement from the Swartland Municipality said: “The Municipality Tribunal’s decision is currently subject to an appeal process. The issuing of a general statement in this regard is presently being considered by the municipality.”

21 Responses to “Sadie ‘gobsmacked’ as Swartland opens door to sandmining”

  1. Peter Webb says:

    This has to stop – where can we sign the petition? If we have just 3 weeks would be great to get this started today. Eben is apparently on Cape Talk Radio today at 3:20 PM GMT. As a supporter of the Swartland in general and the winemakers in particular I am hugely disappointed with what is simply a crass decision

    • Darren Smith says:

      Eben said he would be sending me a link to the petition. I’ll post an update with the link as soon as I have it – Darren

  2. Andrienette Fourie says:

    Please post petition on FB so we can all support you!

  3. Bernie Vogelsgang. says:

    How come we’re only hearing about it now, if it’s been bubbling away for two years? Where have the lobbyists been? Where are the newspaper articles and petitions? What haven’t WOSA said anything? What about VINPRO? They had their annual talking shop a few eeeks ago and this was never mentioned? Too many asleep at the wheel methinks.

  4. Elmari Swart says:

    Please loop me in on the petition, happy to help where I can.

  5. Demetrios says:

    Shocking news. Please forward the petition link.

  6. Riaan van der Walt says:

    These sand mines are spreading seeds of invasive alien trees like Port Jackson. Mining licences should not be granted in these areas.

  7. 2 Sides to as a story says:

    I wonder how many Poeple are a ware of the fact that Eben build his new home with sand comming from a mine in the Paardeberg. No objections then!!. If the financial lost wil be so big for the ones objecting why dont they pay out the 2 farms that want to mine for there lost of income in exchange for no mining. Then it is a win win for everybody.

  8. Robin Back says:

    Please let me have the petition link.

  9. Cheryl Veitch says:

    I have seen sand mining scar the landscape in Queensland – don’t let it happen here!!
    This area is a special piece of paradise and so many have done so much over time to uplift its reputation in the world . How can a few be allowed to destroy all of that.
    Please get the right people and the media behind you .

  10. Bruno Vianna says:

    Eben Sadie and other winemakers are doing a great job in getting not only Paardeberg but South Africa known for such incredible wines that define a new worldwine frontier in old vines’ jewels. It is unbelievable that whoever is involved in the sandmining project can be blind enough to undermine the great present and future of such a marvelous wine region! I live in Brazil and unfortunately I can’t have a fair judgement about the kind of interests that favour this move, but I would be glad to sign this petition up.

  11. Cheryl Veitch says:

    Please share the petition as soon as possible. I have seen the scars of sand mining in Queensland and it’s not pretty.
    The objections are so numerous and so obvious how has this come about I wonder. An expose by the media is definitely called for.
    Please everyone use whatever contacts you have to drum up support for opposition to this horrible development in one of the loveliest areas of SA.

  12. Herzil henry noel Sedeman says:

    Hey we will support you Johan the mun manager comes from free state the mayor is a dutctman have no respect for other people and dignity just wants to do as they wish this must be for peter visser they work hand and hand together send your petition to provincial parlemet as well Mr Sadie

  13. Aneleh says:

    Sad to see how many farms in the Paardeberg erea has gone to waist by sandming.Been living here for 24 years and none of the farm that have been mined has come right in 20 years.Shame on these people that are willing to leave this for the next generation.

  14. Paardeberg Friend says:

    Do we know the whole story or only the one side?
    Will a municipality in an agricultural area just make thoughtless decision? And will an agricultural community just sit back and do nothing. Look at Eben’s petition and see how many TRUE PAARDEBERG FARMERS you can find on there? Or does it consist out of writers, “buddies” and people who own 3 hectors of vines (or nothing) in the Paardeberg and Swartland region?
    99.9% of landowners and farmers in the Paardeberg who has been living there for 3 to 4 generations (over a 100 years) do not oppose to this sand mines in the Paardeberg.
    People apposing to these sand mines are winemakers and residence living in the Paardeberg area for less than 20 years. They are the minority compared to the rest of the residence and WINEFARMERS (agriculturist) in this area.
    They own very little or NO VINEYARDS at all in this area but buys grapes from outside the Paardeberg area.
    There is a major difference in reading about this soil and talking about it AND REALLY WORKING AND FARMING with it for four generations.
    There’s another side to the story why the TRUE Paardebergers are willing to tollerate the sand mining in there beautiful village with tremendous background, heritage and beautiful stories to tell.

    • Paardeberg Farmer says:

      Answer to PAARDEBERG FRIEND & FIGHTING FOR MY PEOPLE

      I came here as a babe in 1947, to a very run down farm my Dad bought, which I started restoring & repairing at age 14, after school, weekends & holidays.

      Starting often @ 2am with a light tractor & scoop, I closed dongas up to the depth of double- decker busses, by carting the eroded soil up from the river, back to where it came from.
      Have built 2 dams & repaired 4, installed irrigation, planted many vines in my life, taken on many other projects with my Dad, made mistakes & ultimately, have been successful.
      It’s been hard.
      Farming in the Paardeberg is tough.

      This place was made for vines & hard work. Low production with highest quality.

      Most farmers are not being paid for their high grape quality, so, on a low yield, the return per hectare is way below cost.

      This is the reason for their sand mining – a desperate cat on a hot tin roof – it is to ward off the inevitable –
      Secondly, farmers are generally loyal to their neighbourhood & do not criticize, or interfere in next-door’s affairs.
      If they were farming vines/wine financially viably, none of them would support this sudden non-traditional trend.
      In fact, right now, most farmers tacitly oppose sand mining.
      Those who have been misled, have not considered the cost required for rehabilitation – or the long term disadvantages & struggle their young sons will have, trying to farm a mine-dump!

      Yes, there have been new- comers & a few life-style seekers. The new- comers are actually the most successful & Paardeberg can boast with more than 8 new & some old generation wine enterprises, which are doing well!
      All the new-comers, who are farming & making wine here, have viable vineyards. They have often offered to buy grapes from the struggling neighbours, at better prices, however are rebutted by the illogical, duty bound loyalty to mass- production wineries or poorly run co-ops.

      Any man of the soil will tell you that sand is an irreplaceable component of arable land.

      In our dry climate, sand allows penetration of rain, preventing soil erosion & runoff.
      Heavier soils do not absorb light rains easily & evaporate as soon as the son emerges.
      Sand acts as an under -surface reservoir of water, which is slow released into the surrounding heavier clays.
      Sand is the drainage highway when soil is saturated.
      Sand allows moisture to move. It is a vital part of the mechanism nature has of maintaining equalised moisture pressure, by capillary action & water’s behaviour of forming a film of continuity, called surface tension.

      If sand is once removed, all these vital features of sustainability are adversely affected.
      This is followed by the slow, gradual drying up of the area, then region, then vineyards, then the catchment & eventually Paardeberg, with its valuable nature resource, as well.

      There is no such thing as “soil rehabilitation”, which is required after mining – only a
      cosmetic “cleanup”
      There is nothing which can replace the role & purpose of sand in arable soil.

      There is then also the whole negative result of sand mining on water resources & availability, which will be severely adversely affected.

      The Paardeberg has a stable climate, with low rainfall.
      However, when properly farmed, with appropriate management, it is viable.
      For vines, it is superb.

      There is no purpose, need or excuse to resort to this type of exploitation, with our conditions.
      In fact, it should be illegal to do so, in this sustainable situation.
      If a farmer in not farming viably, then don’t mess up, sell up!

      It gives no happiness to see a neighbour struggle financially.

      Their only hope is to change their attitude, to plan, analyse, form business alliances & seize long term opportunities.
      Grand-fathers & fathers all managed, (and certainly would not stoop to selling their sand, as it is all still there) but times have changed and a successful farmer is one who adapts for success!

      Farmers are erroneously led to believe in high returns for their sand. The rehab. costs are high, as well as the requirements, as set out in Jan Smit’s report.
      If the miner goes bankrupt, then the land-owner carries the rehab. cost.
      The miners are interested in the short turn-around times of their loads, because of the close proximity of mine to job, thus low cost.
      Rehabilitation is not important to them.

      The Municipality claims the project will provide economic opportunity & sustainability, but it is only short- term for the landowner.
      If vines are unprofitable now, then they will be even less successful on mined fields.
      This amounts to work losses/ lay-offs for many farm-worker families.
      What an outcome for them? Does any responsible Municipality support this?
      Once a precedent has been established, the miners will follow up with sequential applications.
      The mining will never end.
      More family supporting job-losses.
      So much for sustainable economy in an agriculturally zoned region, with budding agri-tourism!

      The value of the property will collapse.
      One wonders why the Banks & other financial institutions don’t immediately put the brakes on – their investment is being wittled away & sold off by the truck-load!

      I have digressed, but I’ve put the record straight. Opinions are fine. Worth much more if researched & closer to reality!

      My daughter & son -in -law are on the next step here. The 3rd generation is taking the farm business further, because we mean to be adaptable, sustainable and we keep our valuable sand!

  15. Fighting for my People says:

    On our farm they also mined soil and our vineyards flourish on dryland conditions. Its building sand for heaven sake the good soil is at the bottom. And by the way Eben Sadie did not make the Swartland great the Swartland made him great. Our fathers and those before planted vineyards in the Swartland and knew what they where planting and now these Port Jacksons that came into the Swartland want to tell us and run it there way. There was a brotherly relationship in our community and we all were good neighbors to each other until these people arrived. I wonder what all of you guys going to say that is against the mining if the poor farmer can’t pay his workers that worked on the farm for years.

    At least if he gets the money of the mine he can plant new vineyards which can save jobs. And most of them did not even planted a hectare of vineyards themselves. How much for helping the economy and what if the farmer decided he wanted to build a dam on that piece of land would there be the same protest? If you really don’t know the other side of the story rather stay out.

    • Sonia says:

      It is critical to preserve the topsoil in South Africa. It takes more than 500 years to form an inch of topsoil. About a third of the world’s soil has already been degraded, according to Maria-Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Soils play a key role in absorbing carbon and filtering water,and topsoil plays a crucial role preventing soil erosion. So “Fighting for my People” be wary that you are to being shortsighted, no amount of money can buy back the topsoil that is lost. Also has an environmental impact assessment been presented? Acid Mine Drainage is a threat to water resources – has the threat been discussed?
      I work with emerging farmers and their most precious ‘treasure’ is the soil that they farm in. Protect your land and your soil.

      What about air quality for the people you say you represent? The main air quality issue with mining is dust particles (Ghose and Majee, 2000). Communities can be affected by large amounts in concentrations of dust which can be a health hazard, worsen respiratory disorders such as asthma and irritating the lungs and bronchial passages.

  16. Jan says:

    Here’s a Kiwi solution to the Swartland’s Sand Mining problem.
    http://drinksfeed.com/stop-sand-mining-with-beer-and-this-machine/

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