Protect the West Coast (PTWC) has been an exemplary force in eco-activism and has a profoundly positive effect on the environment and people of the West Coast. It is renowned for its natural beauty, biodiversity and endangered fauna and flora, but unregulated diamond and heavy mineral mining imperil this fragile wilderness and people’s livelihoods. An avalanche of mining activity and mining applications in recent years threaten to engulf this region. Protect The West Coast was formed in 2020 to urgently counter unchecked and illegal mining. Many permits to prospect or mine did not adequately consider the impacts, nor did they correctly adhere to environmental regulations. The PTWC serves as a vital watchdog against unlawful mining and to ensure compliance with legal, social and environmental standards. Its primary aim is to hold mining companies and the government accountable through legal measures that enforce responsible mining (ensuring lawful oversight and public participation), and to foster transparent environmental assessments. The PTWC, unique in its mandate among South African environmental nonprofits, has also drawn attention to harmful mining through awareness and activism. The organisation has also provided much-needed support to local communities fighting mining. The PTWC has been effective in promoting dialogue with and communication between stakeholders on the West Coast, including small town communities, First Nations peoples and artisanal fishers marginalised by unscrupulous mining companies. The PTWC works with NGOs, educational and research institutions, the government and corporates to explore eco-friendly economic alternatives. It is developing a pilot rehabilitation programme for old mining sites.
What’s been your/the organisation’s greatest achievement in your field?
An out-of-court settlement with mining company Trans Hex Operations on the West Coast. The settlement agreement, made an order of court in the Western Cape High Court this week, has confirmed that crucial conservation areas on the West Coast — particularly the Olifants River estuary and several other small areas of important biodiversity — will not be subjected in the future to diamond mining by Trans Hex Operations, the main respondent in this litigation, the Mail & Guardian reported.
Please provide specific examples of how your/your organisation’s practices and work have a positive effect on the environment
Protect the West Coast nonprofit organisation brought West Coast mining into the public domain for the first time ever and is holding mining companies, the department of mineral resources and energy and the department of forestry, fisheries and the environment accountable for their environmental and social plans. The organisation provides a platform for civil society to get involved by giving them factual information about new and existing mining applications. Protect the West Coast is in the final stages of launching a first-of-its-kind public participation portal whereby the public will be notified of mining applications and can respond with their comments and appeals through it. In late 2021 the organisation released the film Ours, Not Mine, which tells the story of West Coast mining and the disenfranchised and disillusioned communities affected by it.
What are some of the biggest environmental challenges faced by South Africans today?
Climate change, environmental degradation and the department of mineral resources and energy, which is selling the country down the toilet. There are more than 6 000 unrehabilitated mines and now the department is selling our oceans to oil and gas.
Our theme this year is Celebrating Environment Heroes. What do you believe could be the repercussions for millions of people in South Africa and the continent if we do not tackle problems exacerbated by climate change, encompassing issues like drought, floods, fires, extreme heat, biodiversity loss, and pollution of air and water?
The repercussions are immense, especially in a water-scarce country like South Africa. If we don’t play our cards right, South Africa and its people will suffer immensely because of climate change. The only way to deal with global warming correctly is through a functioning and rational state that sees the issue for what it is — an existential threat to humanity.