Zululand coal mine fight is on

In January this year the Ntambanana community protested about not receiving water for most of December. The proposed coal mine will need an immense amount of water to operate, raising questions as to where the water will come from PHOTO: Orrin Singh

RENOWNED Thula Thula Private Game Reserve could face the threat of closure as a coal mining deal for the area inches closer to finalisation.

The mining application being processed by two companies, Mpisi Trading 143 (Pty) Limited and Marble Gold 376, will involve underground and opencast mining operations. This includes associated mining infrastructure at various portions of the farms Empangeni, Dube Ridge and Windy Ridge, spanning a total of 8 400 hectares.

The move, however, has been strongly opposed by owner of Thula Thula Private Game Reserve, Françoise Anthony.

The reserve has been in existence for almost 20 years and is the oldest private game reserve in KZN.

‘The impact on our wildlife, most of them endangered species, will be so damaging that I cannot even describe its consequences,’ Anthony told the ZO on Friday.

‘Our herd of elephants cannot be relocated and will have to be culled. This would not only result in an environment disaster, but would also affect humans and the local tourism economy.

Thula Thula employs the services of numerous tourism industry role players in the region, such as tour operators, security companies and many more from local communities. ‘No one will be able to recreate the haven it is now after years of mining and destruction of this pristine land. We do not believe that the land will be rehabilitated after the closure of the mines.’

Anthony said the critical issue of water had also not been addressed during the public participation process.

‘There is already a serious water shortage for communities in this area and coal mining needs a lot of water,’ said Anthony.

Scoping reports rejected

The respective companies have already submitted two Consultation Scoping Reports to the Department of Mineral Resources, with the first public meeting held on 4 February in Ntambanana.

A large number of community members and Heatonville farmers were in attendance where representatives from the mining company, their consultants and local ward councillor, Mbongoleni Xulu, addressed the audience.

Cedric Xulu, Director and shareholder of Marble Gold 376, introduced consultant SSS Nxumalo of Muthetshelesi Projects, who explained the process.

He covered the positive aspects of mining, which included job creation, education, health and improved infrastructure development in the area.

It was revealed at the meeting that the mine could start with preparations before the end of the year and that it would be an underground mining operation with three entry points.

It was further noted that mining would be undertaken away from the Ntambanana community and blasting should not affect them, but further studies are to be carried out and the mitigation of negative effects would have to be addressed.

Four days later Mpisi Trading 143 submitted its scoping report to DMR.

It is believed DMR sent back the report, saying it was defective as there was no proof of compliance with the public participation process.

On 15 August a second scoping report was reportedly submitted to DMR by Mpisi Trading 143, but this too was rejected.

On Thursday an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report was presented to Thula Thula staff and neighbouring farmers, who have since lodged their objections against the proposed coal mine.

ALSO READ: Coal mine and Mpukunyoni community sign peace agreement

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