Exxaro, Tronox to mine titanium

2012-07-17 00:00

SOUTH African mining giant Exxaro and American company Tronox have been given the green light to mine titanium from the dune sand at Mtunzini on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast.

The Fairbreeze sand mine will cover about 4 000 hectares — the equivalent of 8 000 rugby fields — south of Mtunzini.

Mtunzini Conservancy chairperson Barbara Chedzy said yesterday that inhabitants of the small town — South Africa’s first urban conservancy — are disappointed at the government’s decision and will not take it lying down.

The conservancy and non-governmental organisation SOS (Save our Sands) have been fighting for five years to keep Tronox and Exxaro from their doorstep.

According to Chedzy, the conservancy and SOS are studying the approval documents.

She said the inhabitants will exhaust all other possibilities before taking legal steps.

Exxaro spokesperson Hilton Atkinson said Tronox, in which Exxaro has a 38,5% share, will develop and manage the Fairbreeze mine.

Tronox is also responsible for the rehabilitation of the Hillendale sand mine north of Mtunzini.

It is believed that the Fairbreeze mine, which will be active for about 15 years, will be worth about R2,5 billion.

Residents of the coastal town are very unhappy about Tronox’s environmental record in the U.S.

Sister newspaper Beeld reported earlier that Tronox was established last year after the Kerr-McGee Corporation liquidated itself in the U.S. when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claimed several million dollars from the company due to serious environmental offences.

Kerr-McGee was convicted of polluting areas in 22 federal states with, among other things, radioactive waste.

Some of this waste was dumped in the Colorado River.

Atkinson said Exxaro and Tronox still have to obtain certain approvals before mining can proceed.

According to a statement on Exxaro’s website, the groups plan to start mining in 2014. The Hillendale mine, also a titanium mine, closes at the end of the year.

SOS and the conservancy said that the Fairbreeze mine will destroy the entire eco-tourism industry and sensitive ecosystems at Mtunzini, and turn it into a ghost town within a few years.

Atkinson said earlier that Fairbreeze will create at least 1 000 jobs. If the project is stopped, R300 million will immediately disappear from the province’s budget, he said.

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