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Save South Africa's Coastline

Excerpt from Source:
27 October 2005


Wild Coast

MRC mining plans to mine a 22km stretch of the coastline at Xolobeni. They could be awarded mining rights by the end of 2005. This would allow them to begin mining in 2007.

Environmentalists say eco-tourism would create far more jobs in the long run. Geoffrey Davies, the chairman of the Anglican Church’s Environment Network, said: “Eco-tourism is a far more sustainable option that could create 10 000 jobs. In 20 to 50 years, the Wild Coast could be a tourist’s paradise.”

Davies said since the mining site covered five river estuaries these could be destroyed as fish breeding sites.

For MRC, the development of the new N2 toll road linking Durban and East London is essential for the Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project.

Although Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk has declared his intention to protect the Pondoland National Park region, the boundaries are as yet uncertain.

The Pondoland centre of biological diversity and endemism is of international ecological importance, and was recently added to the list of 26 global floristic hotspots. The park offers beaches, marine and estuarine escapes and African cultural heritage, in addition to wildlife viewing.

“We have seen, in some areas, serious degradation over the past few years as a result of unplanned and inappropriate development, resource overuse and invasive species,” Van Schalkwyk said.

According to Eastern Cape Premier Nosimo Balindlela, the ecotourism potential of the Wild Coast is a key part of the province’s 10-year growth and development plan.

A Wild Coast project-commissioned survey has shown that tourism would have a much more positive long-term effect than mining in Xolobeni. The Grant Thornton survey was presented to the Wilderness Foundation. Thornton’s brief was to conduct a financial and socio-economic assessment for a period of 22 years, from 2006 to 2028, in order for it to be compared with the lifetime of the proposed mining operation.

The assessment was done in terms of national plans to develop a “bioregional planning framework for the large-scale implementation of a conservation and sustainable development programme across the Wild Coast between the Mtamvuma and Kei rivers”.

This would include areas from the northern point of the Mkambathi nature reserve to Mtamvuma just south of Port Edward on the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal border. MEC Andre de Wet said that developers were very keen to get projects started. He added that the Development Bank of South Africa had established a special unit to look at projects along the Wild Coast and that R500m had been put aside for this.

The capital cost of all the projects in the six areas identified in the assessment is estimated at R288m, with more than two-thirds of this in the Mzamba area (R193m), followed by R31,6m for each project at Mnyameni and Sikombe, R16,6m at Mphlana right down to R3,1m at Mtentu. The cost includes infrastructure such as water, roads, electricity and sanitation.

The proposed tourism projects include a 60-bed three-star hotel and 50 residential units at Mzamba, 20 timber-framed chalets at Mphalana with a similar operation at Mnyameni, a tented camp added to existing facilities at Kwanyana, 20 timber chalets at Sikombe, a tented adventure camp at Mtentu and an upgrade of the existing facilities there by

Wilderness Safaris. The projected income from each project would be about R28m. The gross operating profit from the projects is estimated at R6,4m in the first year, rising to R12,4m at the end of the projected 22-year time frame. Income from related activities like hiking, abseiling or river rafting has not been included.

The initial phases would provide more than 4000 jobs across the area, dropping to about 450 once the projects got off the ground. This means that proposed tourism investments would have significant financial, economic and socio-economic impact benefits for the area that would remain long after the 22-year lifespan of the mining operation.


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