environment sustainability

Save Our Sands Mtunzini – a letter from Bruce Hopwood


Save Our Sands (SOS) Mtunzini

SOS (Save Our Sands) Mtunzini the joint campaign of the Mtunzini Conservancy to address the proposed sand dune mining to the North and the South of Mtunzini. The Mtunzini Conservancy (Reg. No. 2007/006455/08) is a NPC with Section 18A tax status and can issue tax certificates for donations made.

Dear Friends of Zululand and the environment,

As a resident who was born here, grew up and educated here and who has resided here for the past 27 years I’m filled with a sense of loss at the general prospect of large areas north and south of Mtunzini being turned into a mining wasteland.  As a child I witnessed one far-sighted individual’s lonely battle to enlighten a village and its neighbouring farmers on man’s impact on the environment and the need to take care of it. As an adult I have seen this vision and hard work brought to fruition with an entire community’s commitment to conservation as well as its total delight in its rich natural heritage right on its front doorstep.

The Jewel of the Zululand coast

From as far back as my memory serves, Mtunzini has always prided itself on the basis of its natural attractions which make it an unspoilt and safe environment with pristine coastal dune forest, lagoon, mangrove swamps and kilometres of undisturbed beach – ‘the jewel of the Zululand coast’ as the postcards of the 1960s described it. Today our brochures and our tourism websites still use the same language to market this gem.

At the time of the millennium there were 10 accommodation establishments and four catering establishments in Mtunzini. In the past 14 years this has more than doubled to more than 20 accommodation establishments ranging from quality B&Bs, hotel, lodges and self-catering facilities as well as at least eight good restaurants.

Tronox would have us believe that ecotourism and mining need not be mutually exclusive and it has even made a vague proposal to offer ‘mine tours’. As part of its application for development rights in terms of the requirements of the KZN Planning and Development Act of 2008, Tronox has commissioned Durban academic Dr Jeff McCarthy’s report: ‘The Possible Impacts of Dune Mining on the Mtunzini Town Character’.

Despite claims that he spent ‘three months of research into the specifics of Mtunzini and its regional context’, Dr McCarthy fails dismally in capturing the town’s character and only contributes the occasional  banal observation about the type of cars parked outside Spar at midday (‘mainly older lower cost’) and despairs at the absence of a Protea hotel. With this limited world view of how a village on the seaside close to the N2 should behave, he then wastes no time in pontificating on the reasons for this ‘arrested development’ when towns under similar circumstances have boomed. As an example, Dr McCarthy chooses Mtubatuba – an unfortunate comparison if there ever was one.

Instead he takes self-conceited delight in trying to paint a picture of Mtunzini as a kind of ‘Orania-by-the-sea’ for greenies. It’s a tired joke. As a community we’ve been having the discussion amongst ourselves for years – with a lot more depth and humour, I may add.

In an attempt to give some sorely needed gravitas to his unconvincing conclusions, Dr McCarthy has very thoughtfully added 21 pages of CV.

Living close to nature in a pristine environment

If Dr McCarthy had made the slightest attempt to try to understand ‘the character of Mtunzini’ he may have discovered that there are people in the world who actually do not want to live in a Ballito or an Amanzimtoti or stay in a Protea hotel, that there are people who choose to live close to a pristine environment and that the matter of searching for a balance between a good quality of life with the least impact on the environment is important to some people.

The residents of Mtunzini deserved something a little more thoughtful than Dr McCarthy’s poorly researched hatchet job.

He describes other towns in the world where mining has taken place – Australia, France, Pilgrims Rest – which have survived mining to become successful urban centres. These brief investigations are supposed to hold ‘principal lessons’ for the Mtunzini context. However, even the most cursory checking of these mining towns reveals that all went into decline once the mining rush was over and most became ‘ghost towns’ until they were rediscovered years later and the nostalgia travel industry kicked in.

Everyone knows that today’s popularity of Pilgrims Rest is based entirely on the fact that following the boom the town went into complete decline and that the tin and iron village of the gold rush days remained virtually intact until the 1970s when everyone wanted to do the ‘time-warp’ thing again.

The one success story of Australia of which I have a little experience is Ballarat, about 120kms outside Melbourne. This area experienced an enormous gold rush in the 1850s which was sustained for about 50 years but then rapidly faded and declined with the slowing of gold extraction. The town suffered seven decades of little development until its Victorian architectural heritage was recognised and 25 hectares of the town became a successful functioning historical theme park. Sadly its twin town in the United States has never enjoyed a similar catharsis. Ballarat in California experienced a similar gold rush followed by a similar decline. It gained notoriety briefly in the 1960s when the ‘Manson family’ of killers moved in but today it only boasts two residents and a couple of passing tumbleweeds.

Mining villages become Ghost towns

In fact, a little searching on the Internet – using ‘mining village’ and ‘ghost towns’ as keywords – often produces the same results. Google appears to recognise them as synonyms.

The ‘Principal Lesson’ here seems to indicate that mining is not sustainable, that some people make a quick buck and move on and that whoever stays behind can expect a devastated landscape and a declining economy with little money for home improvements.

Mtunzini – one of seven most underrated spots in South Africa

In my work with the uMlalazi Tourism Association I have spent much time on creating media awareness about our region by inviting members of the Press to visit and I’m always struck by their surprise at finding such a beautiful unspoilt location on the KwaZulu-Natal coast. It is unique and that should be celebrated and cared for. In the past year, we have enjoyed media coverage from an enormous range of national media – including Country Life, Wild magazine, Wildside magazine, Sunday Times Travel Weekly, Sunday Tribune, the Mercury, The Witness, Go!/Weg!, Getaway, Pasella (on TV) and even Mens’ Health which included Mtunzini in its ‘seven most underrated spots in South Africa’ article in the November 2012 issue.

All articles have had the highest praise for the region. The most recent Press report by respected journalist Myrtle Ryan opened with: ‘Mtunzini is still one of the prettiest towns in KwaZulu-Natal. Huge trees shade the winding roads, vegetation flourishes and the locals are helpful’ (Saturday Star 22 December 2012)

Not many towns get compliments like that. Can you imagine what they will write if Tronox starts to mine the 12-km strip along the N2 entrance to Mtunzini with bare red earth on the seaside and enormous slimes dams on the inland side. They will write: ‘Mtunzini used to be one of the most beautiful towns until Tronox moved in and wrecked one of the last unspoilt environments along the KwaZulu-Natal coast’. Or, ‘Mtunzini used to be the gem of the Zululand coast until Tronox mined it’.

I certainly hope I’m not around to try and market that if mining ever happens.

Outside the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife reserves, uMlalazi Municipality is the one shining example of a tourism success story in Zululand. Our local tourism association (the UTA) leads the way in marketing, developing regional products and ensuring that tourism is a sustainable industry in the region. Not even a city like Richards Bay comes anywhere near producing what we have achieved and I hope the Municipality is proud of the UTA’s achievements and takes cognisance of this when it has to make a decision on either allowing or forbidding mining 100m from Siyaya Street.

The Mtunzini I know is not one of ‘arrested development’, I have known it all my life and I have seen many changes and developments. I think it is a town which recognises its uniqueness, values it and wants to preserve it. It is not opposed to change, it only wants this to be ‘appropriate development’. Several generations have given of their time and money to make it what it is today, a dusty mine on its doorstep doesn’t seem like just deserts to me.

The Mtunzini Conservancy is doing an exceptional job in taking on Tronox’s bid to mine 100m from people’s homes and it has set an outstanding example to small communities around the country that they do not have to be bullied by faceless international corporations driven by profit and greed. It’s difficult to appreciate the magnitude of this battle but the Conservancy has prepared its case thoroughly and convincingly by pooling whatever resources are at hand and seeking the best legal advice when need be. All this has come at great sacrifice to a small group of people who have given of their time and expertise in this mammoth task but more importantly, it would not have been possible without the incredible generosity of ordinary people with whom this battle has struck a deep personal chord. Your donations – large or small – will make a difference  and  I urge you to contribute to the SOS Campaign run by the Mtunzini Conservancy to preserve our environmental heritage.

Yours sincerely,
Concerned Resident of Mtunzini

Mtunzini Conservancy Web sites for further information


Mtunzini Conservancy

SOS Mtunzini

SOS Mtunzini request for your continued support – make a donation now

Simply put, if it wasn’t for your valuable support we would not be able to continue. So thank you all once again for your generous contributions to and support for the SOS Mtunzini campaign against mineral sand mining on the east coast of KZN. We hope that you will be able to continue supporting us through this process by making donations of R250, R500, or R1000.

SOS Mtunzini (Save Our Sands) is the joint campaign of the MRA (Mtunzini Residents Association) and the Mtunzini Conservancy to address the proposed sand dune mining to the North and the South of Mtunzini. The Mtunzini Conservancy (Reg. No. 2007/006455/08) is a Section 21 company. The Mtunzini Conservancy has Section 18A tax status and can issue tax certificates for donations made.

Please make your donations to:

The Mtunzini Conservancy at any branch of First National Bank

or via the internet to:

First National Bank
Sort Code: 220130
Account number: 62093027475

Please use your business name or surname and initials as a reference and fax to + 27 86 512 6476 or email to the following information:

  1. Proof of payment
  2. your full name
  3. postal address
  4. E Mail address and your telephone number

For donations from outside South Africa, the details for the bank and bank account are as follows:

First National Bank
Empangeni Branch
PO Box 13, Empangeni 3880
KwaZulu Natal
South Africa
Sort Code: 220130
Account number: 620 930 274 75

If you have any problems, you can contact the Operations Manager at First National Bank, Empangeni:

Mrs Reeva Cornelius
Telephone: +27 35 772 6763
Fax number: +27 35 7922591

The Mtunzini Conservancy (Reg. No. 2007/006455/08) is a Section 21 company (Non Profit Organisation).

The Mtunzini Conservancy has Section 18A tax status and can issue tax certificates for donations made. Our auditors are:

Hills Howard & Associates (Pty) Ltd.
PO Box 585 Empangeni 3880
Tel: +27 35 772 6611

Thank you for supporting SOS Mtunzini.


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