Furore over ‘illegal’ sand mining

2017-11-16 06:01
Councillor Johnson Chetty on the river bank where illegal sand mining takes place. PHOTO: ANDILE SITHOLE

Councillor Johnson Chetty on the river bank where illegal sand mining takes place. PHOTO: ANDILE SITHOLE

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ILLEGAL sand mining along the Umdloti River between Waterloo and Verulam is posing a threat to the ecosystem and local farmers.

Ward 106 councillor Johnson Chetty said illegal operators excavate the sand along the bank despite numerous attempts to stop them.

“The land use management for eThekwini Municipality went there two weeks ago and gave them [illegal operators] notice.

“eThekwini Municipality has laws and by-laws, however, the problem is the enforcement of these by-laws. I gave consent to the local people to farm [along the river bank], but the illegal sand miners made it hard for them to continue to plough their products.”

Chetty said one has to have a mining licence “approved by the Department of Environmental Affairs to mine sand legally”.

“These illegal operators have no approval from the department. They are destroying the endangered species. The river has fish and reptiles that are regarded as endangered species.”

When the Weekly went to the area last month, vehicle tracks were seen on the sand, and agitated residents vowed to take to the street in protest against illegal sand mining.

Njabulo Cele (29), said the operators did not talk to residents to get their view on the situation.

“These illegal operators must be stopped. The portion of the land where they excavate the sand was allocated to local farmers.

“We suspect the owner of the hardware is stealing the sand because they know no one will complain.

“We warned them two weeks ago and advised them not to excavate the sand on the river bank.”

Cele said the area is now dangerous for their children.

“Children play on the river bank, which is not safe because they can drown in the river. The community is willing to take further action and protest against the illegal sand miners.”

Resident Mahlengi Magwaza (33), has been living in the area for 15 years and said tractors excavating the sand have destroyed vegetable gardens of emerging farmers.

“This is shocking. Our local farmers have lost their business because of these illegal sand miners.”

Reggy Cele (36) appealed to the authorities to intervene and stop illegal sand mining.

KSEMS Environmental Consulting managing director, Kerry Stanton said sand is considered to be a mineral as per the definition of the term “mineral” as contained in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) of 2002, amended in 2008.

“The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act [MPRDA] is the primary legislation governing mining related activities.”

Stanton said MPRDA is the starting point if any person wishes to extract natural mineral, including sand from its natural environment.

“The Act provides a comprehensive guideline on how to commence with the exploration and/or exploitation of a mineral resource through various administrative processes including applications for mining rights, permits and permissions.

“The Act, in Section 5A [inserted as part of the Amendment in 2008], refers to ‘Prohibition relating to illegal act’.

“This paragraph provides information on what a person must do prior to commencing a mining related activity. In summary it states that ‘no person may prospect for or remove, mine, conduct technical co-operations, reconnaissance operations, explore for and produce any mineral with any work incidental thereto on any area without an environmental authorisation, reconnaissance permission, prospecting right mining permit, retention permit, technical co-operation permit, reconnaissance permit, exploration right or production right and giving the landowner or lawful occupier of the land in question at least 21 days written notice’.”

Stanton added that interested and affected parties, including other state departments, must be consulted for a 30-day period in which comments can be submitted regarding the proposed mining related activity.

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