Dune min­ing war set to erupt

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - ZO NEWS - Tam­lyn Jolly

THE huge fight that en­sued over pro­posed min­ing of the dunes at St Lu­cia in the 1990’s is in dan­ger of be­ing re-ig­nited

Should prospect­ing and fu­ture min­ing near the Maphe­lane dunes be given the green light, en­dan­gered Ma­puta­land coastal low­land for­est, crit­i­cally en­dan­gered wet­lands and threat­ened wildlife species may be put at risk

These were some con­cerns pub­lished in the Draft Ba­sic As­sess­ment Re­port and Draft En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­gramme Re­port pro­duced in con­nec­tion with Eya­makhosi Re­sources’ ap­pli­ca­tion for prospect­ing rights within the south­ern­most buf­fer zone of the iSi­man­gal­iso Wet­land Park World Her­itage Site.

Speak­ing ex­clu­sively to the Zu­l­u­land Ob­server, Coast­watch KZN said it is among the en­vi­ron­men­tal NGOs op­posed to the min­ing of the Maphe­lane dunes.

‘We are not op­pos­ing min­ing gen­er­ally, but we are to­tally op­posed to any min­ing which in­volves the de­struc­tion of a valu­able ecosys­tem such as frontal dunes.

‘The frontal dunes, plus the dune slack im­me­di­ately be­hind, are an in­te­gral part of the coastal zone and should not be dis­turbed.

‘In ad­di­tion, the in­ten­tion to mine in such close prox­im­ity to the iSi­man­gal­iso World Her­itage Site is even more wor­ry­ing.

‘The forests in­volved are part of the North­ern Coastal Forests ecosys­tem, which is un­der ex­treme pres­sure from de­vel­op­ment along the coast and part of the for­est may even fall into the de­clared for­est re­serve, which means it should be for­mally pro­tected from any ac­tiv­ity which would ad­versely af­fect it.’

Coast­watch said min­ing ac­tiv­ity would be harm­ful to not only ter­res­trial ecosys­tems, but could also af­fect ma­rine sys­tems.

Ex­pand­ing re­sources

Eya­makhosi’s mo­ti­va­tion for want­ing to mine the site is based on his­tor­i­cal data show­ing the pres­ence of heavy min­er­als, and on job cre­ation fac­tors.

The com­pany said min­ing would both cre­ate em­ploy­ment in an area of high un­em­ploy­ment and con­trib­ute to the lo­cal and na­tional econ­omy.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, Eya­makhosi Re­sources is an his­tor­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged lo­cal busi­ness with a vi­sion of cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for lo­cal res­i­dents.

It has been ex­posed to ac­tive heavy min­eral sand min­ing op­er­a­tions around Richards Bay and, for con­tin­u­a­tion of this eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and con­tri­bu­tion to lo­cally owned busi­nesses, Eya­makhosi must prospect and ex­pand the re­sources base.

‘If prospect­ing does not take place, fu­ture de­vel­op­ment and eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity of the area will be put in jeop­ardy,’ said the re­port.

Phase one of the prospect­ing would be lim­ited to non-in­va­sive ge­o­log­i­cal map­ping while phase two would in­clude in­va­sive prospect­ing drilling of a max­i­mum of 200 holes, each at a depth of 30m.

Phase three would in­clude drilling, in­fill, sam­pling and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

While job cre­ation is a main driver of the ap­pli­ca­tion, the prospect­ing phase would at­tract lim­ited job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Should drilling be con­sid­ered vi­able, meth­ods would in­clude slim­line re­ver­sal cir­cu­la­tion, or air core or sonic drilling as an al­ter­na­tive if the for­ma­tion is too loose to al­low good re­cov­ery of sam­ples.

En­vi­ron­men­tally, the re­port states that it is un­known to what ex­tent prospect­ing or min­ing would im­pact the wet­lands deemed crit­i­cally en­dan­gered, and that the prox­im­ity of the western bound­ary of the site to these wet­lands is of con­cern and re­quires spe­cial­ist in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The site be­ing less than 10km from the pro­tected iSi­man­gal­iso park is a trig­ger for en­vi­ron­men­tal au­tho­ri­sa­tion.

Thegsa.co.za

Maphe­lane dune and the light­house, look­ing north to­wards St Lu­cia

A map de­pict­ing both cur­rent min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and the site un­der ap­pli­ca­tion for prospect­ing

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