Hands off the coast …

2011-09-03 00:00

ZULULAND residents are worried about their unspoilt coastline.

A new open cast mine is being proposed at Fairbreeze, just south of Mtunzini and a new prospecting application has been made to prospect for minerals offshore between Zinkwazi and Mtunzini.

The area being surveyed for prospecting — termed the Icenine Prospect — and is approximately 48 km long and approximately 22 km wide, running parallel to the KwaZulu-Natal coastline and is offshore between the towns of Zinkwazi Beach (south) and Mtunzini (north).

“The Mtunzini Conservancy [MC] and the Mtunzini Residents’ Association [MRA] have formed a joint campaign to oppose the proposed dune mining just south of Mtunzini at Fairbreeze by the mining company, Exxaro,” said Barbara Chedzey, chairperson of the Mtunzini Conservancy.

Exxaro have sand mining operations in KZN, Namaqualand and Australia.

“One of the world’s largest suppliers of titanium dioxide, feedstock and zircon,” its website said.

Its Hillendale mine is located just north of Esikhawini on a dune ridge overlooking the uMhlathuze floodplain, with the slimes dam extending from the base of the dune on the floodplain, towards the river.

Mining operations started there in 2001 and now the mine is close to the end of its life.

The Mtunzini Conservancy said no evidence is provided that the Hillendale mined area can ever be restored to its previous high agricultural potential, and there is also no evidence whatsoever of rehabilitation of the slimes dam.

“Esikhawini/Gobandlovu residents and surrounding farms have been plagued by dust from the opencast mine. The slimes dam is a real concern — not just that it is unlikely that it will ever be useable again for agriculture [sugar cane being the original land use] — but the potential disaster that could be brought about by floods such as those of Demoina [1984] and the 1987 floods.”

If Exxaro’s plans to extend sand dune mining from Hillendale (Richards Bay) to either side of Mtunzini come to fruition, the mining operation will extend first to Fairbreeze (south of Mtunzini) and then to the Port Durnford area (north of Mtunzini.)

The Mtunzini Conservancy revealed, if the mine goes ahead, there will be 4 000 hectares of open cast sand dune mining at Fairbreeze just south of Mtunzini.

In addition, 600 hectares of slimes dams (five kilometres long and 1,2 km wide), to store the slimes from the sand mining once the minerals in the sand have been removed, will be put in place.

Dam walls 37 metres high at the highest point and 160 metres wide will be placed in the middle of sensitive wetland areas across different catchment areas and a 50 km dirt road will be built.

Maximum throughput of the mine will be 2 200 tons per hour.

“Mtunzini relies on eco-tourism, and the influx of visitors is a result of the quality of the natural environment. The Umlalazi estuary is classed as one of the most pristine on the KZN coastline.”

The Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development (DEARD) in Richards Bay have decided that Exxaro need not carry out a full scoping and environmental impact assessment, but only a basic assessment report.

DEARD senior manager for the environment in that area, William Mngoma, said that people are being, “annoyingly mischievous and distorting the facts by saying that the department is allowing only a basic assessment report.”

The Mutunzini Conservancy’s plan of action is to achieve full scoping and EIA as befits a mining operation of this size and potential long lasting impact.

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