Exxaro's mine at Hillendale outside Felixton
Your best online guide to the Exxaro mining debate 

 

 

 

Mining for Dummies
How to tell a
BAR from an EIA and a slimes dam
from a wet plant

The main objections by the Mtunzini Conservancy and the Mtunzini Residents Association (MRA) to the application by Exxaro KZN Sands to mine at Fairbreeze, south of Mtunzini, is that the authorisation process has been fundamentally flawed. It ignored Mtunzini residents' interests and gave Exxaro an unfair advantage.
Because some authorisations to mine in the area had already been granted, Exxaro was a permitted to only submit a Basic Assessment Report to get authorisation to mine as close as 100 metres from the town.
To understand the complex nature of this debate, there are some essential definitions which need to be sorted out.
A Basic Assessment Report (BAR) is the environmental assessment applied to activities which are generally regarded as smaller scale, the impacts of which are generally known and can be easily managed. Typically, these activities are considered less likely to have a significant impact on the environment.

A BAR is a more concise analysis of the environmental impacts of the proposed activity (ie. Exxaro's planned mining) than a Scoping and Environmental Impact Assessment (S&EIA). A BAR still requires public notice and participation, consideration of the potential environmental impacts of the mining, an assessment of possible mitigation measures and an assessment of whether there are any significant issues or impacts that might require further investigation.
The BAR must provide the Competent Authority - the provincial Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development (DAEARD) in this case - with enough information to consider the application to mine and to reach a decision. If the DAEARD is unable to decide based on a BAR alone, it may request Exxaro to subject the proposed mining to the more thorough Scoping and EIA process.

Scoping and EIA requires a thorough environmental assessment for activities likely to have significant impacts that cannot be easily predicted. These are regarded as higher risk activities that are associated with potentially higher levels of pollution, waste and environmental degradation.

A Scoping Report (including Plan of Study) requires a description of the proposed mining activity and any feasible and reasonable alternatives, a description of the property and the environment that may be affected and the manner in which the biological, social, economic and cultural aspects of the environment may be impacted upon by the proposed activity; description of environmental issues and potential impacts, including cumulative impacts that have been identified, and details of the public participation process undertaken. In addition, a Scoping Report must contain a roadmap for an EIA, referred to as the Plan of Study for the EIA, specifying the methodology to be used to assess the potential impacts, and the specialists or specialist reports that will be necessary.

An Applicant may only conduct an EIA after the Competent Authority has approved the Scoping Report and the Plan of Study for the EIA.
The Scoping and EIA Process culminates in the development and submission of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report and the Draft Environmental Management Plan (EMP) to the Competent Authority.
Slimes Dams, also euphemistally known as residue storage facilities, are the dumps for the fine waste material left over after the process of separating the valuable minerals from the orebody. This slurry is dumped in the slimes dams to dry out and it becomes a permanent part of the landscape long after the mining operation has moved on.
Rehabilitation
is the process of restoring the mined land to a predefined and agreed condition. At Fairbreeze this will mean returning the land to agricultural (Eucalyptus and sugarcane plantations) use.
Reconstituted soil, also known as chocolate sauce, is a remix of the coarse sand and slimes into a 70:30 ratio. The current rehabilitation plan for Fairbreeze requires a layer 1.8m deep of reconstituted soil to be placed, much like chocolate icing on a cake, over the coarse sand placed in the mine void. It is optimistically hoped that this reconstituted soil will provide a suitable growth medium for future agricultural production. To date the optimism appears unfounded.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

THE SOS CAMPAIGN
SOS Mtunzini (Save Our Sands) is the joint campaign of the Mtunzini Residents Association (MRA) and the Mtunzini Conservancy to address the proposed sand dune mining to the North and the South of Mtunzini.
The Mtunzini Residents Association (Reg. No. 2003/022172/08) and the Mtunzini Conservancy (Reg. No. 2007/006455/08) are both Section 21 companies. The Mtunzini Conservancy has Section 18A tax status and can issue tax certificates for donations made.
Contributions may be made to Mtunzini Conservancy at any FNB branch or via the internet to.

FNB, branch code 220130
Cheque Account no. 62093027475

Please fax or email personal details (name and address) and proof of deposit to 086 512 6476 or bwkewley@telkomsa.net, so that a tax receipt can be sent to you.

MEDIA REPORTS
The Zululand Observer
Business Day
Business Day (Editorial)
The Mercury
The Sunday Tribune
Farmer's Weekly
The Witness

SOS NEWSLETTER

 

The proposed mining of the area south of Mtunzini has been on the cards for more than 13 years. It was initiated by a company then known as Iscor Heavy Minerals, which later joined forces with an Australian company to become Ticor SA (PTY) Ltd. It then transformed into Exxaro KZN Sands. The latest reports are that it is to once more metamorphose into a new company, this time with US interests and is to be known as New Tronox.
The proposed area to be mined is vast. About four times bigger than the present mine at hillendale, outside Felixton, the Fairbreeze mine begins only 100 metres from the southern boundary of Mtunzini and extends 13 kms south westerly - mostly in the area between the railway line and the N2 Toll Road. It will change the environmment around Mtunzini forever and the gateway to this gem of the Zululand coast will be permanent slimes dams on the inland side of the N2 and a ravaged, red lunar-like landscape on the coastal side.

Map of Fairbreeze mine Fairbreeze Siding Fairbreexe off-ramp R102
From unspoilt eco-tourism hub to dusty, mining town in 10 years
HOW MINING WILL CHANGE MTUNZINI
The tourism brochures boast about its 'pristine coastline' and 'zig-zagging rivers and streams' in a 'clean and safe environment'. They also mention its commitment to the 'preservation of its natural heritage'. But if mining giant Exxaro KZN Sands gets its way, all this could be lost for future generations who may well wonder how a village like Mtunzini and its ravaged, dusty surroundings was ever known as the Jewel of the Zululand coast.

Exxaro is due to start mining the 4 000-hectare Fairbreeze site in 2013 - once mining at Hillendale, near Felixton, is complete and the facilities currently being used at Hillendale are moved to a site near Highfield Country Home.
The minerals to be mined include titanium, ilmenite and zircon, with the richest deposits found in Fairbreeze C Extension adjacent the Xaxaza Leisure Park at the end of Mimosa Street where Exxaro hopes to start mining.
All Hillendale staff will transfer to Fairbreeze and no new permanent jobs will be created. Exxaro anticipates that just over 1 000 temporary jobs will be created in the construction phase – mostly when the plant is physically lifted off the Hillendale site and moved along the N2 (the bridges will be lifted to allow the plant to pass underneath) to Fairbreeze and later when the plant is enlarged.
Once Exxaro gets the go-ahead to mine, the present vegetation on the mine site will be bulldozed and burnt, exposing large areas of soil which will then be broken down by a high-powered hydraulic process requiring 48million litres of water a day running 24 hours a day.
The minerals are then extracted from this slurry and the waste pumped to two slimes dams about 5kms away on the inland side of the N2.


There is nothing to
suggest that Exxaro
has learned how
to do anything at
Hillendale mine

One of the main concerns of the Mtunzini Conservancy and the Mtunzini Residents Association (MRA) who are opposing the mining is that these mega-dumps, as they are also known, are not only enormous (600 hectares in size, 5 kms long and 1,4 kms wide) but are sited on environmentally sensitive wetlands, and will never be able to be rehabilitated. These dumps will become a permanent eyesore at the entrance to Mtunzini.
To understand the size of these slimes dams, you have to imagine 17 golf courses the size of Mtunzini Country Club placed side by side. “There is no evidence in the Basic Assessment Report (BAR), or elsewhere that we know of, to support the claim by Exxaro that such slimes dams can be successfully rehabilitated to economic timber production – or any other crop,’ said a spokesperson for SOS (Save Our Sands) which represents the interests of the Conservancy and the MRA.
“It appears that the slimes dams could be a threat to safety, and blot our landscape forever. A literature search indicates that 30m high dam walls are at the upper safe limit for slimes dams. The planned Fairbreeze slimes dams will be 37m high in places.
"There is also no evidence to support the claim by Exxaro that the soil hydraulically shattered by the process can be ‘reconstituted’ and returned to the highly productive agriculture and forestry that is currently in place.
“Exxaro claims that the existing Hillendale mine operation is supposed to provide all the answers with respect to rehabilitation of the mined area and the slimes dams and that lessons learned at Hillendale will be applied at the proposed Fairbreeze mine.
“From our perspective, there is nothing to suggest that they have learned how to do anything at Hillendale. From recent visits to Hillendale, Google Earth images, and several aerial surveys there is scant evidence of successful rehabilitation work that has been completed and reported on and/or published in reputable journals.”
“If Exxaro doesn’t get this right, we could be left with a wasteland,” says Jim Chedzey who leads the SOS campaign.
Not only a wasteland but a town which has lost its allure and with little chance of future investment.
According to the municipal valuation roll, the village of Mtunzini represents an investment of R1-billion with an annual rates base of R12-million.

In contrast, Exxaro is expected to make R1,2-billion profit annually in the 12 years that it will mine at Fairbreeze and is expected to pay uMlalazi Municipality only R1,6m in annual rates.

Since King Cetshwayo’s white chief, John Dunn, discovered its charms in the 19th Century, Mtunzini has always been an attractive place to live or holiday in one of its many guest houses.

To understand the size
of the slimes dams,
you have to imagine
17 golf courses the size of Mtunzini Country Club placed side by side

Today it is just a hop off the N2 with easy access to Richards Bay, the famous game reserves of Zululand, King Shaka International Airport and Durban. It’s the kind of village where one will meet a zebra at the pedestrian crossing or a Woollynecked Stork at the stop street.
It has a history of respecting its environment and sense of place.
In the 1940s the local civic authority handed over large portions of the coastal forest to the Natal Parks Board as it was concerned about the high level of poaching taking place.
A decade later Ian Garland moved to a neighbouring farm where he pioneered stream rehabilitation and started the first environmental education centre in South Africa. By the millennium, Mtunzini had become the first urban area to be granted conservancy status and it had received many accolades and conservation awards for its work in the clearing of alien invasive plants.
Its residents are fiercely protective of its eco-estate lifestyle and have fought many hard battles to keep it that way but the proposed mining is without a doubt its biggest challenge - taking up many voluntary hours of research, meetings, canvassing and fund-raising to cover legal fees.
But for residents the stakes are high. Property owners have been offered naught for their comfort - only the fear that their life savings will drop and devalue as Mtunzini becomes a less than attractive place to live or visit. At present, there are more than 100 houses on the market.
Residents are mostly concerned about the fine dust which will blow from an open-cast mine 100 metres away, as well as the noise levels of a 24-hour a day, seven days a week operation.
They are also concerned about their water supply and water quality.
The mine will use more water in a day than the town uses in a month. Who can predict how this will affect this already critical resource, 10 years down the road?
One of the toxic slimes dams is situated in the catchment of the Siyaya River which flows into the Umlalazi Nature Reserve, another dam falls within the catchment of the Nyezane River which flows into another protected area, the Amatikulu Nature Reserve.

Having an environmental education centre on the edge of a mine is a bizarre and abhorrent mental image

Not to mention, the main drainage lines on the Fairbreeze site which flow directly into the wetlands behind the sand dunes in the Siyaya Coastal Park.
The shock troops of this total onslaught on the town, are the residents of Xaxaza Leisure Park - a small community of 65 retired pensioners who will bear the worst brunt of the mining.
This quiet, shady warren of narrow lanes lined with modest cabins and a popular caravan park only has a 100-metre barrier of nine-year-old trees between it and one of the dirtiest mining operations seen on the South African coast.
“It’s absolutely dreadful,” says Xaxaza co-owner Merle Muller about
the prospect of mining right opposite her entrance.
“I spoke to the owner of Harbour Lights [a caravan park on the Hillendale site] and he said: ‘Merle, the day they start mining you may as well close your business because no one is going to stay at your caravan park and the permanent residents certainly won’t want to live under those conditions.
“He said it was so dirty and dusty that residents had to wash everything every day if it had been left outside. We all wrote letters to Exxaro and the Minister begging them to move the mine a safe distance away from us. I posted 65 letters but it seems to have been a waste of time because we haven’t received a single reply. Not even an acknowledgement from Exxaro. And what's it going to do to our health? We’re all pensioners here.”
Also of huge concern is the future of the Twinstreams Environmental Education Centre situated just above the confluence of the Siyaya and Amanzimnyama streams.
Begun 60 years ago by sugarcane farmer, the late Ian Garland, who foresaw the threat faced by the environment long before the present debate on climate change, Twinstreams is now run jointly by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) and Mondi (the present owners of the land to be mined).

I was told that the day they start to mine that I may as well close my business. No one wants to live under
these conditions


Every year, more than 4 000 school children pass through the Centre where they have the chance to explore several pristine, diverse ecosystems, study riverine rehabilitation, the impact of humans on catchments as well as enjoy fun activities such as hiking along the beach and canoeing in the estuary. Because of Ian Garland’s proud legacy, Twinstreams has always been a valuable lesson to all who pass through it that individuals can make a vital difference.
But to many, having an environmental education centre on the edge of a mine is a bizarre and abhorrent mental image.
In its answer to the concerns raised about the future of Twinstreams Centre, the Addendum Report noted only that Exxaro ‘should financially assist with investigating suitable alternative sites’.
In his lifetime, Ian Garland estimated that he had planted over 60 000 indigenous trees – not only on his own farm but along most of the watercourses on the Fairbreeze site and wherever he felt the landscape needed a bit of ‘cheering up’.
Mtunzini’s sense of place owes much to his voluntary tree-planting, enthusiastic guidance, first-hand knowledge and foresight.
At his funeral in 2007, all the tributes referred to his life’s work of creating a forest along the Siyaya as his living monument.
Who knows how this monument will look in 2020 if the mining goes ahead?
"Many of us learnt some valuable life lessons from Ian Garland and we saw what a lonely battle he fought most of his life to try and save the Siyaya catchment," says longtime resident and farmer Bruce Hopwood.
"It's painful for us to be in the Fairbreeze area and ponder the future of his extraordinary legacy. He only wanted to leave the world a better place than he found it and now we're faced with its plunder by a faceless multi-national company that only sees profits and will never know what we have lost."
Mining
by
numbers
R1,2
billion
The annual profits
to be generated
by Fairbreeze mine
R1,6
million

Annual rates to be paid by Exxaro
to uMlalazi Municipality

R12
million
Total annual
rates paid by
Mtunzini residents

0

The number of new permanent jobs created by the mine
The Edge: How Mtunzini looks today The Abyss: How Mtunzini will look once mining begins
HOW WILL MTUNZINI LOOK AFTER THE
MINING HAS ARRIVED?
We asked one of our resident digital artists to give us an impression of what Mtunzini will look like once Exxaro starts to mine at Fairbreeze C Extension which adjoins the village. 'That will be easy', he said. 'We already know how it will look. You just need to drive 20kms and look at how Hillendale looks today.'


Environmentalists call for a full Environmental Impact Assessment
Documentation is 'totally inadequate'


Mtunzini Conservancy chair-person Barbara Chedzey with some of the documentation she has had to review on the mine.
The documentation on which the decision to mine at Fairbreeze will be based has been slammed as ‘highly inadequate’, ‘scientifically unsound’ and filled with gaps and inconsistencies, according to a group of environmentalists monitoring the process.
Because Exxaro originally obtained authorisation to mine in the Fairbreeze area in 1990s, it was allowed to apply on the basis of a Basic Assessment Report (BAR) when it applied later to mine more land - including the contentious Fairbreeze C Extension area which adjoins directly onto the town of Mtunzini. This short cut was permitted In spite of the project quadrupling in size from the time the first authorisation for mining was sought in the 1990s.
The BAR requires less scrutiny and while having substantial financial benefits for Exxaro, it severely prejudiced the rights of Mtunzini residents who are demanding a more
intense Scoping Report and full Environmental Impact Assessment.
‘Now that the full extent of mining is emerging and we have a better picture of Exxaro’s intentions in the area, it’s clear that Fairbreeze falls slap bang in the middle of criteria requiring a full EIA,’ said Julie Stacey, a specialist advisor to the Mtunzini Conservancy and former sustainable development operations manager (Global) for Anglo American.
Errors, inconsistencies and uncertain statements in the documentation made ‘a good-governance decision on the mine impossible’.
Ms Stacey said she had spent 72 hours reviewing the 2 000-page
documentation and found it contained conflicting information, duplication and erroneous cross-references .
‘‘The crucial environmental management plan was labeled
Appendix F but there is no Appendix F,’ shrugged Ms Stacey.
'The BAR is an inadequate basis for a decision regarding the levels of complexity, fragmentation, uncertainty and the likely significance of impacts that will result from the proposed Fairbreeze operation,’ concluded Ms Stacey, ‘and the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development would be justified in retracting its original decision given this new information.’
Ms Stacey was attending a Media Day organised jointly by the Mtunzini Conservancy and the Mtunzini Residents Association during which WESSA presented their findings on the mining.