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Quote of the day!

"An article John Clarke has co-written with Richard Spoor says the threatened area is of inestimable cultural and environmental value. Hosting the Pondoland Centre for Endemism, a global biodiversity hotspot, it is arguably the most beautiful coastline on Earth.

Taking issue with the Australian company, the article adds, "Mining the Pondoland Wild Coast is the moral, cultural and aesthetic equivalent of quarrying Ayers Rock for granite, or the Great Barrier Reef for calcium carbonate."

Read the full Sunday Tribune article on the threat to our dunes - by Leon Marshall.

New threat to our dunes
As an Australian mining company plans to plunder the dunes of the Wild Coast, Leon Marshall ponders whether the lure of jobs and wealth creation will overcome pressing environmental concerns

May 13, 2007 Edition 2

Leon Marshall

Shades of St Lucia are hanging heavily over the Wild Coast, where dune mining is causing divisions in the community. Even the arguments are the same, as are the rising tensions that have led to allegations of threats and acts of violence.

Dr Ian Player, doyen of South African conservationists, said, "I have been a miner in my life, and so have my father and my grandfather and my great-grandfather, and I know the value of mining. But to mine coastal dunes is a desecration of our country."

Accusations of bribery of local leaders, and of intimidation having been flying about. The murder, as far back as 2003, of a headman, Madoda Ndovela, has been ascribed to his opposition to mining.

Fears are that tensions could rise in coming months as the deadline approaches for a final decision on whether or not to proceed with mining in this beautiful part of South Africa.

The climate is not unlike that over the St Lucia mining issue, on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast, where Richard's Bay Minerals was, until the mid 1990s, set on mining the dunes on the Zululand coast for titanium and other minerals and where the situation was exacerbated by community disagreement.

The proposed dune-mining site on the Wild Coast, about half-way between East London and Durban, is once again a precious natural landscape that is under siege.

This time it is an Australian company, Mineral Resource Commodities (MRC), which wants to mine the dunes for their billions's worth of titanium.

Heritage site

As with St Lucia, a key justification given for wanting to override the environmental concerns is the opportunity to create jobs in a region beset by poverty. Another is that much of the area to be mined has already suffered ecological degradation and could in fact benefit from rehabilitation after mining.

Again it is a case of environmentalists pitted against a powerful mining concern. In the case of St Lucia, the environmentalists' protracted obstruction ultimately paid off when the new ANC government of president Nelson Mandela put a stop to the mining plans.

The question is, do they have any chance of again prevailing as they did once before, to the benefit of a natural area which has since been declared a World Heritage Site?

From an environmental perspective, the situation does not look rosy. MRC and its South African subsidiary, Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources (TEM), have struck up a partnership with the local Xolobeni community empowerment company XolCo and have just lodged their mining application with the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) in Port Elizabeth.

MRC chief executive Alan Luscombe has been quoted as describing the acceptance of the application as an important step which clears the way for the company to proceed with the necessary studies required to apply for mining approval by way of mining right.

A spokesman of the department has said that the required process of public participation would come into motion tomorrow (Monday) when consultative and information meetings would start in the proposed mining area between company officials and members of the local communities.


If you read between the lines, it's all a formality really. The government's decision seems to be made already. Eskom is already planning an upgraded power sub-station and 2 high capacity lines for Xolobeni, and the minister of transport appears to have given the go-ahead for the N2 toll road. According to his July speech, construction of the N2 will begin before December. Through the "centre of endemism" directly to Xolobeni. Taken individually these 3 environmental issues are looming threats. Combined they spell disaster.

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