Dune mining war set to erupt
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.
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.
Maphelane dune and the lighthouse, looking north towards St Lucia
A map depicting both current mining activities and the site under application for prospecting