Concern over sand mining decision
"Coastwatch fears that allowing sand mining on the Mpenjati River will be a costly mistake."
Coastwatch, a coastal watchdog group, has called for tighter control over the province’s estuaries, following the KwaZulu-Natal government’s go-ahead for sand mining in the Mpenjati River.
“The Mpenjati estuary is a flagship for our province and is the only one of the 50 South Coast estuaries that is formally protected. If the provincial environmental department cares so little about an estuary in a protected area, adjacent to the Trafalgar Marine Protected Area, what hope do we have of safeguarding our other estuaries,” said Coastwatch chairman Di Dold.
In May this year, her organisation and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife appealed a decision by KwaZulu-Natal Department of Environment to allow Joymac Sands to conduct a sand mining venture on the Mpenjati river, about 840m upstream from the Mpenjati Nature Reserve boundary line.
Last week MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Mike Mabuyakhulu overturned the appeals and announced the decision to allow the sand mining to go ahead. Ms Dold believed this decision could be a costly mistake.
“In the short term sand mining might seem like a good proposition but in the long run it is going to cost us a fortune as more sand is being taken out of our rivers than what the rivers can produce. This damages the health of the estuary as it artificially affects its depth and can cause the smothering of sensitive organisms,” she said.
Because sand mining could affect the health and therefore the aesthetic appeal of the estuaries and surrounding beaches, tourism could also be affected, she added.
The decision to allow the sand mining venture was based on a basic assessment report produced by environmental consultants appointed by Joymac. A basic assessment is shorter and less comprehensive than a full environmental impact assessment. Ms Dold believed a more stringent assessment was needed before sand mining was allowed to go ahead on any river.
“Each case should be treated separately as no two systems are the same. The effect of sand mining should be thoroughly assessed by estuarine specialists and sedimentologists,” she said.
In its appeal against the decision to allow the sand mining venture to go ahead, Ezemvelo pointed out that sand mining should not be allowed in an estuary that formed part of a nature reserve. It also expressed concern that no proper studies had been done regarding the volume of sand and sediments available in the river.
In his decision to allow the sand mining to go ahead, Mr Mabuyakhula stated that he believed the negative impacts would be mitigated or avoided as the mining was small scale and that previous Joymac operations in the area over decades had led to a limited negative impact on the estuary.