fish farmer and four environmental lobby groups - including
the Mtunzini Conservancy - have appealed the decision by
the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs
to give Tronox (previously known as Exxaro) the go-ahead
to mine Fairbreeze, south of Mtunzini. The Conservancy’s
standpoint from the outset has been that Tronox should have
carried out a full Scoping and Environmental Impact Assessment
(S&EIA), and not a shortened Basic Assessment Report
(BAR). The appeal process may take until the end of January
2013 and we await the Government's decision. Should the
authorisation be upheld, we will consider what our rights
are at that future stage.
the end of August the Mtunzini Conservancy, along with the
Wildlands Conservation Trust, Mtunzini Fish Farm, WESSA KZN
(Wildlife and Environment Society of SA, KZN branch) and Coastwatch
KZN (a project of WESSA) and the Twinstreams Blue People Advocacy
Group (TSBP) lodged appeals against the authorisation granted
to Tronox to mine Fairbreeze.
The appeals highlighted numerous faults, inaccuracies and
problems inherent in Tronox’s documentation as well
as the Record of Decision (RoD) made by the DAEA, some of
which are highlighted below:
one of the proposed mining areas is situated adjacent to,
or in the midst of what the specialists have classified
as areas having high biodiversity sensitivity or high conservation
value, as is the Primary Wet Plant and its pipelines and
powerlines. The Return Water Dam (RWD) will inundate a portion
of highly sensitive forest. The Alternative RWD will inundate
an area of moderately sensitive forest, but still with high
Mega Sabeka Residue Facility (MSRF) will obliterate the
whole of wetland 08, which is 142ha in extent. The Valley
Storage Residue Facility will completely inundate a highly
sensitive and threatened remnant of swamp forest.
Eskom powerlines will require the clearing of areas of swamp
forest, and will present a high risk environment for bird
collisions. The experts have noted that 'due to the high
number of Red Data bird species that could potentially occur
in this environment, the probability of bird collisions
was rated as 'high'.
Orebody D and portions of Orebody A fall within the catchments
of the dune slack wetland, which Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has
flagged as a highly threatened wetland type in KZN.
Mtunzini lies immediately to the north of the mining area.
The coastline of the town has been maintained as a nature
reserve, and the Siyaya Coastal Park and the Umlalazi Nature
Reserve extend along the coast from the northern side of
the town southwards below and immediately adjacent to the
proposed mining area.
The Reserve is used for ecological recreation, birding and
educational camps. It is adjacent to the highly successful
and celebrated Twinstreams Educational Centre which has
been at the forefront of environmental education in South
Africa for the past 60 years.
If approved for mining, Mining Area C Extension will permit
mining 24 hours a day within 100m of the most southern Mtunzini
residences and the Xaxaza Caravan Park, which caters for
residents, retired pensioners and holiday makers.
has been identified as uThungulu District Municipality’s
most leisure-orientated tourist town. It accommodates 70%
of all of the leisure tourists compared with Richards Bay,
Empangeni and Eshowe. Its marketing strategy is that of
beach and eco-tourism and it employed 200 persons in that
sector in 2011, which sector forms the foundation of the
The uMlalazi Municipality has identified tourism as its
key economic driver through a Tourism Development Plan,
and the social impact assessment compiled by Golder Associates
in June 2011 has concluded that 'a negative impact by the
proposed mining activities will have a cumulative negative
impact on employment in the area' (p18, Golder report).
During the operational life of the mine, there will be 'minimal'
(Golder p24) new employment opportunities (only 38) because
mine workers from Hillendale will be transferred. The principal
new employment benefit from the mine will be initial and
temporary construction jobs.
The proximity of the mine to the town of Mtunzini will almost
certainly result in significant tourism loss, destruction
of the birding industry, dust, noise and visual intrusions,
with possible further negative impacts from crime and traffic.
There are many more procedural and substantive defects which
we have included in our appeal to the DAEA. They are too numerous
to mention, but each defect should be enough to persuade the
DAEA to instruct Tronox to carry out a S&EIA.
sewerage plant - designed to handle loads of 180kl per day
- is currently receiving as much 280kl and at peak times,
up to 320kl per day. The plant started regularly over-reaching
its capacity three years ago.
The Ward 19 Ward Committee, chaired by Councillor Keith Powell,
has been raising this issue at ward committee meetings for
the past five years, and recently asked that uThungulu District
Municipality, the authority responsible for the works, call
a crisis meeting with all the key roleplayers to try and find
a way to resolve the problem.
They finally met in September and looked at four key issues:
site visit showed where an outflow pipe was discharging
contaminated water into the forest and into the Umlalazi
Nature Reserve. The uThungulu staff managing the facility
are doing what they can – additional drying beds have
been built and additional filters put in - but it is not
enough, rendering the plant non-compliant with standards
set by legislation.
only 25% of Mtunzini properties are connected to the bulk
sewer lines, the honeysucker deposits the sludge from the
septic tanks of Mtunzini and surrounding areas (conservancy
tanks from schools in Obanjeni) at the Mtunzini plant. In
addition, Zini River Estate, as part of their agreement
with uThungulu in terms of services, are allowed to continue
to connect new houses into the system.
Department of Water Affairs, after an assessment of all
the municipal sewerage plants in KZN, asked Treasury for
R232million to upgrade the plants that were most in need
of rehabilitation - Mtunzini was not included as the study
was done four years ago. They only received R75million over
receives R28million in revenue annually from its service
tariffs (water and sanitation) but it has to spend R150million
in operation and maintenance of these same services. It
is therefore heavily reliant on grant funding, largely because
of the free basic services it has to provide in terms of
Department of Water Affairs is now aware of the severity of
the situation and will issue a letter of compliance to uThungulu
stating that there is a moratorium on any further development
or connections into the system.
uThungulu, with the assistance of DWA, will continue to seek
emergency funding from either government grants or loans,
and, as a priority, will work on at least rehabilitating the
current works so that it can handle current loads.
The next step is to seek funding to build an entirely new
plant to ultimately service all of Mtunzini, plus planned
growth, leaving the old package plant functioning only as
a pumping station.
The Conservancy and the MRA, through Cllr Powell and the Ward
Committee, will continue to monitor and push for a resolution
to this crisis, as the ongoing daily pollution of our wetlands
and streams within the reserve cannot be allowed to continue.
It was interesting to note that in response to a question
from the Conservancy, uThungulu said they had received no
request from Tronox about the discharge of their sewerage
from the proposed Fairbreeze mining operations (600 permanent
staff plus 1 000 or so temporary workers during construction)
into our sewerage works. The BAR simply says that sewage will
be discharged into the nearest licenced facility.
Tronox honeysuckers may have to travel a lot further than
anticipated if they think they can drop their load at the
Mtunzini sewerage works!
than than 100 young people from schools in uMlalazi braved the
miserable weather on International Beach Cleanup Day and collected
more than 622kgs of refuse between Mlalazi River mouth and Matikulu
On the third Saturday of September each year, volunteers around
the world take part in the world’s biggest coastal cleanup,
known as International Coastal Cleanup Day.
The refuse collected along the Siyaya Coastal Park was weighed
and analysed and was mostly connected with either recreational
and shoreline litter left by beach goers and fishermen. This accounted
for as much as 75 percent of the refuse collected. Dumping from
ships accounted for most of the remaining rubbish.
The organisers expressed concern at the large number of alcohol
bottles left on the beach.
The aim of the cleanup is essentially
to remove debris from the beaches but also to o collect valuable
information about debris and
heighten public awareness of the causes of littering and dumping.
Conservation manager of Siyaya Coastal Park, Trueman Buthelezi,
was pleased with the results despite the poor weather that the
volunteers had to contend with and thanked the many sponsors for
making the event such fun for everyone involved.
The event has been held internationally each year for over 25
years and it is now estimated that more than half a million people
in more than 100 countries participate in the cleanup annually.
for Dlinza outing
About 20 Conservancy members
had a perfect Spring day to explore normally out-of-bounds areas
of Dlinza Forest before taking in the newly opened Butterfly Dome
at the Fort Nongqayi Museum Village in Eshowe.
The walk had been preceded the night before with a talk and slide
presentation by Sharon Louw, the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Chief Research
Technician for the area and the Conservancy was keen to see some
examples of well-maintained grasslands on the edge of Dlinza Forest.
We were not disappointed as some small pockets gave an impressive
display of wild flowers for the many photographers. The birders
were also not disappointed as a couple of Spotted Thrushes went
about building a nest on the forest edge. Later on top of the
aerial boardwalk tower we were treated to Hornbills and Turacos
feasting on ripe figs just metres away.
Sadly the Butterfly Dome had been damaged during a recent storm
and most of the butterflies had escaped but the dome has been
repaired and we were able to see some butterflies and learn about
their host plants.
end of the year function will take place on Thursday 6 December
at 18h00 at Twinstreams. It will be a bring and braai and we've
Cllr Keith Powell to give us a
longtime-resident's perspective on the early days of Mtunzini.