Coast KZN

31 Mar 2022

Sand mining operation shut down by Tongaat Hulett in La Mercy

James Anderson (North Coast Courier) Picture: A front loader excavates sand at the site, which has grown to cover an area of about 2 rugby fields.

A large La Mercy sand mining operation has been shut down by landowners Tongaat Hulett, who claim the mining was done illegally.

Since February 14, Task Industries, owned by Zimbali businessman Raven Govender, had been extracting about 60 trucks full of sand from the site daily. The mine, on the corner of 2 residential roads, Golden Dawn Drive and Ocean View Road, led to residents calling the Courier with both noise complaints and questions of legality.

“There had been mining there in the past, but never on this scale. Since February it has become a full-sized industrial mine,” said a La Mercy resident, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

When the Courier first contacted Tongaat Hulett on March 14, the company confirmed it was the landowners and that Task Industries did not have permission to mine. Since then, Task Industries employees have been blocked by security guards from entering the site.

In a meeting with the Courier last Tuesday however, Govender said he had voluntarily stopped mining until a lease agreement could be reached with Tongaat Hulett. He was unwilling to discuss the reason for the disagreement, saying he had been in business with the company since 1999 and was confident that an agreement would be reached.

When asked why mining had increased dramatically since February, Govender said it was because illegal mining syndicates had previously taken the land by force and he was only recently able to regain access. He showed the Courier a court order confirming that people on the land were removed by authorities in early February.

Tongaat Hulett also confirmed the prior lease agreement, but denied that Task Industries’ return to the site was with approval.

“Task previously had a mining lease with Tongaat allowing them to conduct mining activities. The lease, which was concluded around 2008, was terminated by Tongaat in 2010 due to Task not complying with the lease conditions. All mining activities on this site subsequent to 2010 commenced without Tongaat’s permission,” said spokesperson, Virginia Horsley.

Govender strenuously denied he had engaged in any illegal activity, citing his mining rights extended until 2025. He showed the Courier original documents backing his claim, which had been certified. These could not be verified at the time of print as the Courier had not received a response from the Department of Mineral Resources which regulates mining in South Africa.

Sand, which is classified as a mineral and falls under mining legislation, is mostly mined for use in construction, particularly in the manufacturing process of cement and bricks. Aside from the eyesore and noise factor, illegal mines – generally found on riverbanks – can also have a huge impact on the environment, given that they do not need environmental impact certificates. This can lead to legal mines being undercut and sand that does not meet the requisite quality checks is used.