Articles Posted in the Conservation category

Dredging a path out of poverty

November 10, 2008
Posted in Conservation

The proposed dune mining project on South Africa’s Wild Coast appears to have been put on hold for the moment but, in the meantime, another mineral sands project, this time in Madagascar, is about to start producing ilmenite, according to a report in Business Report last week.

The mining area is estimated to hold 75 million tons of ilmenite deposits, enough to sustain mining operations for about 40 years. The first shipment will take place in the first quarter of next year, according to the BR report.

Mining investment is seen as a way to alleviate poverty on the island, known for its many unique plant and animal species, but environmentalists have expressed concerns about the sustainability of this development path. Similar concerns have been raised about the proposed mining project on the Wild Coast.

Environmental issues have been a significant obstacle in the development of Rio Tinto’s QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) project, Gary O’Brien, QMM’s president, was reported as saying in BR.

Massive investment
The $1-billion mining project near Fort Dauphin in south-eastern Madagascar is reportedly the largest investment in the island’s history and will be a catalyst for broader economic development. Rio Tinto also says the mine is a model for further projects likely to follow in Africa and the developing world because of the care it has taken in managing the social and environmental impacts.

Research commissioned by Friends of the Earth in 2007 found that the mining project – which is 80 percent owned by Rio Tinto and 20 percent by the Madagascar government and has received World Bank funding – was failing to deliver sustainable development.

“Rio Tinto claims that the Madagascar mine development is whiter than white, designed to benefit local people and preserve the unique natural environment. But the new research tells a very different story. The reality on the ground is a murky shade of grey, with local people losing their land and livelihoods whilst receiving negligible benefits from the project in return,” Friends of the Earth’s corporate campaigner Sarah-Jayne Clifton said in a press statement on the release of the report last October.

World Bank standards
Rio Tinto responded to the criticisms on its website, stating: “While we face enormous challenges to get it right, we are satisfied that our management of the project is setting new benchmarks in responsible mining practices.” The company added that “Rio Tinto’s conduct is subject to World Bank standards which are rigorously monitored by competent regulatory agencies.”

But Friends of the Earth has concerns about the World Bank funding mining projects as a way to alleviate poverty. It urged the World Bank to act to ensure standards were being implemented on the ground in Madagascar and to call a halt on investment in future mining projects because evidence shows that they are failing to deliver sustainable development.

A recent report by AFP said the massive mining project had “knocked sideways” the sleepy fishing town of Fort Dauphin, doubling its population in three years and causing the prices of food and rent to rise by up to 40 percent. On the other hand, the report said that the investment had brought hope to the area, and improved the transport infrastructure and hotel industry. But there was also concern that many of the new businesses would not last over the longer term, the report said. And local fishermen claimed the mining was affecting their livelihood.

The Madagascar government has reportedly thrown its weight behind mining as a way to alleviate poverty on the island. A spokesman told AFP that a suitable balance had been found between the preservation of biodiversity – which is also the island’s main tourism asset – and the development of the mining industry.

Forest rehabilitation
Ilmenite, which is used in the manufacture of titanium dioxide, a white pigment used in a range of products from toothpaste to paint, is extracted by dredging mineral sands. This will result in the destruction of about 1,000 hectares of rare coastal forest.

Rio Tinto says on its website that it plans to rehabilitate the area when the dredging is complete. It says people from non-governmental organisations were hired to develop a credible biodiversity programme. And an independent biodiversity committee made up of Madagascar experts is advising the company on the rehabilitation of the indigenous forest.

Rio Tinto’s South African interests include a 50 percent stake in Richards Bay Minerals, which in the 1990s had tried to mine the dunes in St Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal.

How to be a predator-friendly carnivore and other news briefs

September 30, 2008
Posted in Green News

Guide to leopard-friendly farming: Sharing is caring, but when it comes to livestock farming, we humans tend to prefer not to share our sheep and cows with other meat-lovers like leopards, caracals, jackals, eagles and vultures. In fact, farmers have been known to use pretty brutal ways to keep these other predators off their property, like gin traps and poison. The Landmark Foundation has been working to rescue, rehabilitate and release predators, particularly leopards, in the Eastern Cape. It has also been implementing more holistic, non-lethal predator control on farms. Now retail chain Woolworths has sponsored, through its Woolworths Trust, the publication of a comprehensive set of guidelines for predator-friendly livestock farming compiled by Dr Bool Smuts, director of the Landmark Foundation, called “Predators on Livestock Farms: A Practical Manual for Non-Lethal, Holistic, Ecologically Acceptable and Ethical Management”. The manual will be introduced to farmers at a series of one-day workshops and will be introduced to Woolworths suppliers on a one-to-one basis. Perhaps soon we’ll see predator-friendly labels on meat products in Woolworths stores. [Via: Supermarket.co.za]

Wealth from waste: The department of trade and industry is looking at ways to develop the local recycling industry and has commissioned a study to identify challenges and possible solutions, the Engineering News reports. The industry could provide 350,000 unskilled jobs, a government official said. But the infrastructure for recycling needs to be put in place so people no longer have to depend on reclaiming waste from landfill sites.

Xolobeni mining just delayed: The mining licence granted to Transworld Energy and Minerals, the local partner of Australian company MRC, to mine the coastal dunes for titanium in the Xolobeni area of the Wild Coast still stands, the director-general of the department of minerals and energy told Business Day. The signing of the licence, which was originally scheduled for October 31, has merely been delayed so the minister of minerals and energy can receive representations from community members who had launched a legal appeal to suspend the mining and consult the appropriate traditional leaders.

Glimmer of hope for Xolobeni

September 25, 2008
Posted in Conservation

The mining licence to extract titanium from the coastal dunes of the Xolobeni area of the Wild Coast will not come into effect on October 31 as originally scheduled, the Sunday Tribune (subscription) reports. The minister of minerals and energy Buyelwa Sonjica, sent a letter to that effect to the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), which is representing the Amadiba Crisis Committee, a group of local residents opposed to the mining.

The minister reportedly wants to consult King Mpondo-mbini Sigcau, Queen MaSobhuza and Chief Ndabazakhe Baleni, and hold hearings where the LRC will make submissions on why she should withdraw the decision to allow the mining.

Earlier this month the minister admitted that the consultation process for the mining had been flawed.

The LRC had sent an ultimatum to Sonjica telling her that if the mining licence, granted to Australian firm MRC and its South African partner Transworld Energy and Minerals, was not suspended by October 1, it was prepared to go to court.

Xolobeni community lawyers issue ultimatum

September 18, 2008
Posted in Conservation

The legal representative of the Xolobeni community has this week written a letter to the minister of minerals and energy, Buyelwa Sonjica, stating that she has until October 1 to withdraw or suspend the mining licence issued to Australian company Mineral Resources Commodities (MRC) and its South African partner, Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM), or the community will proceed with legal action against her, the Daily Dispatch reports.

A spokesman for the department said that suspending the licence wasn’t part of the department’s plan at present because it believes that mining and tourism can go hand in hand in the area. Read full story

Xolobeni: Consultation process was flawed, says minister

September 15, 2008
Posted in Conservation

The minister of minerals and energy, Bujelwa Sonjica, said on Friday that the consultation process for the Xolobeni dune mining project on the Wild Coast was “flawed”, the Sunday Tribune and the Daily Dispatch report. Read more

Petition to stop mining of Xolobeni beaches

September 12, 2008
Posted in Conservation

An online petition has been organised to call on the minister of minerals and energy to reject the application of an Australian mining company to mine the coastal dunes in the Xolobeni area of the Wild Coast. The minister is scheduled to sign the mining licence and environmental management plan on October 31. The petition states that if the mining were to go ahead it would be a gross violation of the human rights of the local residents.

In his explanation of why the mining would be a violation of human rights, John Clarke quotes Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Ireland, who, he wrote, while visiting South Africa last year, advised civil society to heed the words of Eleanor Rooseveld:

“Where, after all, do universal rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world… Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”

You’ll find the petition here
For more information, visit Sustaining the Wild Coast‘s website.

Xolobeni community starts legal appeal

September 6, 2008
Posted in Conservation

A notice of appeal has been filed on behalf of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, a group of residents in the Xolobeni area of the Wild Coast opposed to a proposed coastal dune mining project, Mining Weekly reports. The minister of minerals and energy reportedly has until October 1 to respond, after which the group may decide to take its appeal to have the mining licence for the project set aside to the high court. Read full story

Update: Tensions rise over proposed titanium mine

September 5, 2008
Posted in Conservation

Calls have been made for urgent intervention to prevent violent conflict in the Xolobeni area of the Wild Coast, where a licence has been granted to an Australian company to mine the dunes for titanium. [IOL] Read more

Wild Coast community decides to go to court over mining

September 1, 2008
Posted in Conservation

Community members who live in the area of the Wild Coast where the proposed mining of coastal dunes will take place have asked human rights attorney Richard Spoor to bring a High Court application setting aside the awarding of the mining licence, The Tribune reported yesterday. The licence was awarded by the department of minerals and energy affairs to Australian company MRC. Read more

Xolobeni update: minerals department meets communities

August 25, 2008
Posted in Conservation

The department of minerals and energy has decided to hold more meetings with the communities affected by the proposed mining operations in the Xolobeni area of the Wild Coast after the minister’s visit on August 15, reports Mining Weekly. Bheki Khumalo, the department’s spokesman, was quoted in the report as saying, “With a thing like this, you can’t impose it, you have got to get the buy in of the community, you have got to use persuasion, you can’t use force.” He added that “a series of consultations with those groups will continue over the next weeks” . Read more