Radley Keys, MPP
DA KZN Spokesperson on Conservation and Environmental Affairs
THE Democratic Alliance in KwaZulu-Natal will challenge a decision by the province’s Department of Environmental Affairs to allow controversial due mining in the Mtunzini area, based on a Basic Assessment Report (BAR) – an abbreviated and far less accurate form of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
The department cannot be allowed to take this kind of shortcut when there is so much at risk. This reckless decision points directly to the possibility of some form of sweetener and the DA will be asking questions around the basis for the go-ahead. We simply cannot accept that – when this is such a major project – a BAR has been accepted by officials rather than a full-scale EIA.
According to a media report, the Australian company granted approval to begin mining is one which has left a trail of environmental degradation, polluting 22 North American states with nuclear waste, wood poisons, rocket fuel, mining waste, oil and gas. Parts of the mine at Mtunzini are expected to be just 100m from the town. Not only will this have a devastating effect on eco-tourism – one of the main sources of income for the area – residents have also been told to expect a vast increase in traffic levels and other noise pollution. Mining is also expected to impact negatively on the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Umlalazi Nature Reserve, the Siyaya Coastal Forest and the nearby Twinstreams environmental education centre.
Conservation is an ongoing and renewable source of income for the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Mining is a fixed term project – once it is complete, the area is left denuded with no future potential as an income generator. Local KZN communities have recently begun to show an increased commitment towards preserving our natural heritage yet in one fell swoop the department has jeopardised this by recklessly committing to a venture that will do nothing for conservation in our province and will only serve to enrich a select few.
In accepting an abbreviated assessment report the department has prejudiced its own core function. It has also compromised the heritage of our country. The DA expects department officials to commit to a full-scale EIA including full-scale public hearings. Civil society must be heard and due respect and consideration given to the concerns and opinions expressed.