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28 May 2003 14:00
The government’s decision to issue a prospecting permit to an Australian mining company, allowing it to investigate mineral deposits along a pristine stretch of the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast, has been strongly condemned by the Democratic Alliance.
In a statement on Wednesday, DA environmental affairs representative Errol Moorcroft also called for a rethink on a proposed tollroad through the area, which green organisations say is being built primarily to serve a future minesite.
The prospecting currently being carried out—by the Perth-based company Mineral Commodities Ltd—is understood to be taking place in and around the site of the Wild Coast’s proposed Pondoland National Park.
Moorcroft said that to allow the commercial despoliation of the area by any commercial company, let alone a foreign one, would be “an act of environmental vandalism”.
“It flies in the face of all existing plans to develop the region in a sustainable way for eco-tourism.
“The proposed re-alignment of the N2, which appears to be more about servicing the mining companies interests than tourism, is also to be condemned.
“There are alternative routes. and these should be explored,” he said.
In a recent statement, the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA) said it had uncovered documents that suggested government’s plans for the N2 toll road “could be linked to an Australian mining concession”.
“According to the annual report of Mineral Commodities Ltd, a feasibility study—partly funded by the South African Export Fund—has been completed on the coastal dunes of the northern Wild Coast.
“The company intends to mine the dunes for ilminite and rutile, two common industrial minerals found in beach sand.”
Ilminite and rutile both contain the metal titanium, which is used in the manufacture of strong, lightweight alloys, especially for aircraft parts.
WESSA said mining of the minerals would take place over a period of 17 years, and net the company tens of millions of dollars a year.
“The annual report makes reference to transport by road of the ore and slag to East London.
“Maps of the proposed route of the controversial N2 highway between Port Edward and East London shows that the intended route ...
will in effect serve the mining site.
“It therefore appears that, far from being a tourist road, the new toll road will be subsidised by the consumer to offer efficient transport to the Australian mining company.”
WESSA said the only apparent benefit to the South African economy would be “the creation of 270 jobs, and some ancillary service companies”.
Moorcroft said government should “put the interests of our unrivalled coastal beauty before those of foreign-based companies”, and refuse permission for further exploitation.
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