Heavy minerals mining in environmentally sensitive habitat

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems
04 February 2010

THE proposed heavy minerals mining project at Xolobeni on the Wild Coast was located in one of the “most environmentally sensitive habitats” ever investigated for mining in the country, says soil fertility expert Jan Meyer.

Xolobeni. Photo by Christy van der Merwe.

In a report submitted as evidence in the pending appeal against the granting of a mining licence to Australian group Transworld Energy Minerals, Meyer describes the area as the “Pondoland Centre of Endemism”, a “floristic rich” environment with nine regional vegetation units between the Mzamba and Mtentu estuaries.

Meyer points out that in a number of countries, including Australia, heavy mineral mining operations on sand dunes had been closed because of the “severe and permanent” environmental impact.

He said mining authorities generally accepted that they could not restore areas to their pre-mining conditions. “They are unable to reconstruct the complex soil structures and water table level variations and the many plant associations that depend on these factors.”

The processes involved in mining had a high risk of disrupting the natural environment and causing “adverse impacts on biota and habitat”.

The contamination of surrounding wetlands and rivers could also be expected.

Independent environment specialist Simon Bundy says in his report that because of the “catastrophic disturbances” likely to be encountered as a result of the proposed mining of the dunes, the impact would “exceed the ability” of the habitat to recover.

Source: Dispatch Online

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