By Judi Davis
South Coast Herald
17 October 2008
Conservationists believe an eco-tourism partnership between the South Coast and the Wild Coast could sound the death knell for dune mining.
Sustaining the Wild Coast anti-dune mining campaigners have described the postponement of the Xolobeni mining license as a "stay of execution".
"However, to ensure that the Xolobeni death sentence is permanently abolished we have to ensure sustainable development for the Wild Coast." said a spokesperson for the organisation, John Clarke.
He was referring to the about-turn the minister of Minerals and Energy, Buyelwa Sonjica, has made regarding the Xolobeni mining project.
Earlier this year the minister gave Transworld Energy and Minerals, the SA subsidiary of Australian company, Mineral Resource Commodities (ASX:MRC), the go-ahead to mine a section of the dunes in the Xolobeni area of the Wild Coast.
She had agreed to sign the mining license at the end of this month. However the minister now says she will only sign it after an appeal has been heard and after further consultation with affected communities.
Mr Clarke believed this process would take up to a year. In the meantime, he said the mining saga had produced at least one major benefit for the Wild Coast.
A number of South Coast business people were already looking at ways to create employment opportunities for Xolobeni, through sustainable development.
They are now trying to revive ailing eco-tourism initiatives. A number of South Coast business people have come up with new ideas too," said Mr Clarke.
A dynamic South Coast and Wild Coast partnership to promote eco-tourism would benefit both areas, he believed.
"Both areas boast a rich botanical diversity. However, extensive development on the South Coast has meant that many floral species, including some that were endemic to the area, have disappeared on our side of the border.
"South Coast residents would therefore benefit from preserving the Wild Coast's floral wealth. There is a growing interest in the indigenous flora of South Africa. With the South Coast's backingbusiness expertise and tourism experience, the Wild Coast could well be marketed as a floral destination." he said.
Eco-tourism projects that have been put forward by South Coast business people are walking and mountain bike trail, wild flower reserves and a vulture restaurant at Mtentu.
"The mining has been kicked so far into touch that they have lost sight of the ball. While they are looking for the ball, let's get started on a new game." said Mr Clarke.
The game his organisation plans to kickstart is the building up of a sustainable Wild Coast eco-tourism industry.