By Andrew Verster, CEO, Wildlands Conservation Trust
Last week I received notification that the EXXARO Sands – now Tronox KZN Sands – Fairbreeze mining application has received Environmental Authorization. This Authorization will now be subject to significant legal interrogation through the appeals process, by many concerned citizens and organisations. The reason for this interrogation is that this mine will change the landscape and economy of the greater Mtunzini area forever. At the moment this is an area characterised by extensive sugarcane and timber plantations and ecotourism activities. It is a scenic landscape and contrasts sharply with the landscape around Richards Bay. Richards Bay was formed through the destruction of one of the world’s largest and most diverse wetland and estuarine systems. Had the Harbour not been developed, the unbelievably beautiful and diverse wetland, dune and estuarine systems would today be part of the Isimangaliso World Heritage area, and would have been South Africa’s Okavanga Swamps or Pantanal.
The Fairbreeze mine impacts will be very visible in the short to medium term. The mine itself will be a huge opencast mining pit, right next to the highway and bordering on the edge of Mtunzini town and the Siyaya Coastal Reserve. It will be supported by new roads, pipelines and powerlines. It really doesn’t matter what mitigation efforts are put in place by KZN Tronox Sands. There is simply no way to hide this operation and the associated noise, dust and health impacts will change Mtunzini from being an agricultural and eco-tourism based town to being a noisy, dusty mining town.
In addition, to these medium term impacts the Fairbreeze mine will leave behind two massive “residue storage facilities”. These will also be highly visible. The one facility will cover an area of 166ha and the other 373ha, and will effectively be mountains of fine clay particulate. The larger facility will be 12 stories high, 5 km long and 1 km wide! The Environmental Authorization makes very little mention of these facilities and their long term care and management. It does say that “the accepted EMPR (Environmental Management Programme) will adequately mitigate negative impacts that may arise during construction and operational phase of the Fairbreeze mine project”. What about the post-operational phase, especially given that KZN Tronox Sands’ Trevor Aryan has publicly admitted that they are not sure how they will facilitate the restoration of these two facilities?
If you’re also worried about the Fairbreeze mine and the real legacy which it will leave us then I encourage you to visit the ACER website to access the application and authorisation (www.acerafrica.co.za) and then send your concerns in writing to the KZN MEC of the Department of Environmental Affairs by the 31st July 2012 (!) – Private Bag X9059, Pietermaritzburg, 3200 or to email@example.com. If we don’t stand up and voice our concerns then we can’t sit back and complain if a disaster unfolds.
source: Andrew Verster