Van Schalkwyk to inspect Pondoland mining site

Newly appointed Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk is to visit the Eastern Cape’s Pondoland coast to assess the impact a plan to mine titanium from sand dunes will have on the area, known for its biodiversity and scenic beauty.

His spokesperson, Riaan Aucamp, said on Tuesday the visit will take place in the “near future”, but could not give a precise date.

An Australian-led consortium, Perth-based Mineral Resource Commodities, and local partners are seeking a licence to go ahead with mining activities in Pondoland.

The consortium’s prospecting rights for the area were converted into a preferential lease last month, paving the way for it to apply for a mining licence.

Aucamp said Van Schalkwyk has “obvious concerns with regard to mining within an eco-sensitive and biodiverse area”.

“He has a planned visit ... in the near future, and will make a full statement after that visit,” he said.

On Monday, the Democratic Alliance called on Van Schalkwyk—who since his appointment last month appears to have focused mainly on the tourism aspect of his portfolio—to “break his silence” over the Pondoland mining issue, which has created a storm among green organisations.

The promise of a ministerial visit to the area also follows reports that rural people living in the Xolobeni and neighbouring tribal trust areas of Pondoland are being evicted from their homes to make way for the mining operations.—Sapa

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