environment sustainability

TAKE ACTION NOW: Fairbreeze mine set to leave a disastrous legacy

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.

Digital artist's impression of potential damage
Digital artist’s impression of potential damage

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 ( 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 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

4 replies on “TAKE ACTION NOW: Fairbreeze mine set to leave a disastrous legacy”

Thank you Andrew, for the detailed content, we need all muster each other and expose this and all fight to ensure it does not happen. ever.

Outrageous that this is even being considered! Thanks for bringing it to our attention

if you are unsure how to word your concerns, here is an example below:

I would like to raise my concerns about the planned life of mine extension Fairbreeze in Mtunzini. Whilst I acknowledge the benefits of a further 12 to 14 years of life of mine to local employment, the long term impacts to the landscape and this ecologically sensitive area will be much more significant and the mine has not proved how it will ensure that the investment it makes now into Fairbreeze will result in long term upliftment for the communities which it impacts. Specifically, the mine’s main reason for Faibreeze is stated as guaranteeing a further 12 to 14 years of employment but shouldn’t there investment and the work they need to do through their SLP have minimised this impact. What will happen in 12 years time – will we back in the same spot.

In addition, the reality is that the ability of Exxaro to rehab the mine is still completely untested. Their EMPR commitment is to re-establish final land-use to dry land sugar cane farming but this requires long term monitoring of the soil capability as opposed to the few plot trials which have been put in place to date. The onus should be on Exxaro to prove their ability to do this as opposed to the province of KZN risking that it will never receive more than wilderness from the rehabed area. Much is being made of the current mine Hillendale’s R104m closure fund but in absolute this is but a drop in the ocean and poor compensation for what is likely to be irreparable impact to South Africa’s heritage.

Based on this information, I urge you to reconsider the development.

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