Dune mining approved despite toxic worry
"The government has given the go-ahead for a large-scale, controversial dune mining venture...
Dunes being mined at the Richards Bay Minerals mine. The mining equipment extracts heavy metals, including titanium, iron and zircon. Photo Credit: INLSA
There is a high global demand for heavy minerals such as ilmenite, zircon and titanium, which are used in a variety of consumer products such as paints and pigments, as well as in aircraft components.
Companies such as Exxaro and Richards Bay Minerals were already extracting large volumes of these minerals inland, from the coastal sand dunes along the North Coast.
According to a legal notice published in the Zululand Observer, a company known as Global Autumn Trading 102 submitted a prospecting application to the mining department to explore about 40 000 hectares of the sea bed near Richards Bay.
Though little is known about the prospecting company, Pretoria-based geological and environmental impact consultants Ages Africa said its search area was located about 30km north of Richards Bay, extending to about 30km south of Richards Bay.
Ages Africa said prospecting would be confined to “non-invasive techniques” in the first phase of the search, followed by a second phase in a smaller focus area.
Last year, a similar prospecting venture was announced by another company, Fast Pace Trade and Invest 58 (Pty) Ltd, which is searching for heavy minerals and gemstones in a sea block almost 50km long and 22km wide, centred around the mouth of the Tugela River.
Exxaro KZN Sands was also seeking permission to extend its current onshore mining operations to a second mining area outside the town of Mtunzini.
The latest applications to search for minerals in the sea sparked fears that mining the sea could damage the marine ecology of large sections of the northern KZN coastline, including the complex sea food web.
Ages Africa consultant Amelia Maree could not be reached yesterday for further details on the prospecting process and the ownership of the company.