Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC)

MINING APPLICATION SMOTHERS SUSTAINABLE ECO-TOURISM INITIATIVES AND CONTRAVENES INTERNATIONAL COMMITMENTS

PRESS RELEASE FROM: SUSTAINING THE WILD COAST (SWC)
4 APRIL 2007

Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC) calls upon the government of South Africa to reject out of hand the recent application for a licence to mine dune minerals along the Pondoland Wild Coast by Australian mining company Mineral Resources Commodities and its local associates, Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources and Xolco.

This call is made out of concern that the current process of decision making with respect to mining developments does not fall within the jurisdiction of normal environmental impact assessment procedure, does not allow for an independent process of review, potentially contravenes South Africa’s commitments under the Convention of Biological Diversity, and does not insist on a holistic cost benefit analysis of the merits or demerits of various development options for the region.

SWC believes the mining poses unmitigatable and enormous risks to any future sustainable development of the region based on eco -tourism, and to the extremely biologically rich but fragile Wild Coast environment. Dune mining would likely result in irreversible loss to South Africa of significant biodiversity, including numerous endemic species, and natural and cultural heritage. South Africa has ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as numerous other international agreements designed to promote conservation and sustainable development. Any loss of species or eco –system functioning as a result of mining would contravene such agreements.

Local communities in the mining area have initiated proposals for community based –eco tourism ventures, which cannot foreseeably co-exist with open cast dune mining. There are also indications that eco- tourism investment in the region by private investors in partnership with communities has been depressed by the threat of mining, as private investors are reluctant to pour money into tourism ventures that might be jeopardized by future mining.

SWC is also gravely concerned at documented ‘manipulated consent’ strategies that appear to have been employed amongst local communities by the mining company in order to smother local opposition to the mining proposal, resulting in high tensions amongst various local communities

Dissatisfaction with the conduct of the mining lobby has been expressed by community members in the area, who accuse the mining lobby of being evasive about specifying supposed benefits that mining would bring to communities, that promised community upliftment developments such as assistance with improvement to local schools have not been forthcoming, and that intimidating tactics have been deployed by the mining lobby to silence any community opposition to mining

SWC commends Dr Alistair Ruiters and his company Eholobo Heavy Minerals for their decision to withdraw from the shareholders agreement that was under negotiation with MRC. However we are alarmed that MRC have now apparently opted to hang their albatross around the necks of well intentioned community members –unfamiliar with the complexities of corporate governance and accountability, who have been co –opted as directors and co –applicants in the mining rights application. We call on the Department of Minerals and Energy to carefully scrutinize the claims of ‘considerable community support’ made by MRC in its annual report, and to make funding available for the community to appoint lawyers of their own choosing to advise them of their rights.

Recent studies by the Wild Coast Conservation and Sustainable Development Initiative (WCCSDI) concluded that, despite the mining lobby supplying what appeared to be figures affected by ‘inflation creep’ about job creation and other supposed benefits of mining, the long term development interests of the region would be far better served by the appropriate development of eco-tourism, sustainable agricultural practices, and related economies in an integrated land management plan.

‘It is inconceivable that in the current international climate, where species are disappearing at an unprecedented and alarming rate, that the South African Government could even entertain thoughts of allowing open cast dune mining in an area as biologically valuable and fragile as the Pondoland Centre of Endemism. If mining is allowed, the South African government will be accountable for the possible extinction in the world of at least 196 plant species, and perhaps many more undiscovered species. It is specifically this biodiversity and the spectacular uniqueness of the Wild Coast that has the potential to attract visitors from all over the world.’ says Val Payn, a spokesperson for SWC. ‘By allowing mining, the South African government will be smothering any initiatives and developments that might lead to the long term development of a viable and sustainable eco -tourism industry in the area. By implication, they would be smothering the aspirations of local communities who favour a sustainable future of their choice based on tourism development.’
The Pondoland Centre of Endemism is an internationally recognized hotspot of plant endemism (There are only 235 ‘hotspots of endemism in the world. Together, these ‘hotpots’ contain about 80% of the planets known species of plant.) The Pondoland centre has 196 known endemic plant species that occur no where else in the world, and a rough estimate of 2253 total species. (More than the whole of the Kruger National Park or the United Kingdom which both contain only about 1 400 species) New species are still regularly being discovered in Pondoland.

SWC calls upon the government of South Africa to make sustainable development and community prospects for the region a priority by turning down the mining application and putting a stop, once and for all, to the mining debacle, with all the accompanying controversies and friction it is causing, and the damper it is putting on community based eco-tourism development in the region, and to act in a manner that promotes the holistic sustainable development of the region, the best long term interests of the communities who live there, and that honour its international agreements.

Contacts
Mr John Clarke - writer, social worker, Tel 083 608 0944
Val Payn - Communications SWC, Tel 083 -44126961
Dr Nick King - CEO Endangered Wildlife Trust, Tel 072 – 379 8067

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