WESSA is deeply concerned about the renewed attempt by Ibutho Coal to develop an anthracite coal mine right on the boundary of the world-renown Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. The proposed Fuleni mine has the potential to severely and irreversibly impact this flagship nature reserve as well as the communities of the Fuleni-Umhlana area.
WESSA opposed Ibutho Coal’s 2014 application to operate an open-pit mine just 40m from the Park fence-line, because the noise, blasting, vibrations and other impacts of the mine would undoubtedly have a severe adverse impact on this world-famous wilderness area. Having visited the Park, WESSA staff can attest that the existing Zululand Anthracite Colliery and Somkhele Mine – which is situated kilometres away from the fence-line – already adversely impacts the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. Mining noise, for example, can be heard from within the park’s boundaries, which affects the fauna and tourism, particularly at night.
WESSA also objected to the threat of acid mine leachate (AML) from this mine spilling into rivers that flow into the St Lucia wetlands. AML from so many of South Africa’s existing, closed and abandoned mines has polluted wide areas. This has created a costly national problem and is a threat to scarce water resources and community health.
Of critical concern to WESSA is the strong likelihood that the mine will lead to an increase in poaching in the Park, which contains one of the densest populations of rhino in the world. Ezemvelo reports that the rhino population of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is already under serious threat by poachers. WESSA has been intimately involved in trying to protect rhino and elephants from poaching since the early 1910s, and believes that this increased risk should not even be tolerated.
WESSA, as a member of the Save our iMfolozi Wilderness Alliance, welcomed the KZN Department of Mineral Resources’ decision in November 2014 to reject the environmental scoping report for this proposed mine. Ibutho Coal has now submitted an amended application, but this has not addressed the key issue which is its inappropriate proximity to this world famous tourism destination. WESSA notes that when the Somkhele mining company discovered a viable coal seam close to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park boundary a few years ago, they acknowledged the tangible value of the iMfolozi wilderness area and chose not to mine this seam; instead they laudably selected a seam further away to reduce the negative impacts on the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. This is a significant precedent that protects our key ecotourism assets, which are significant long-term job creators.
WESSA has objected to this renewed application and has called on the Department of Mineral Resources to implement their Minister’s 2013 pledge that “some places are sacrosanct – they have such high conservation value that we together commit not to disturb!” The Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is one of these sacrosanct places and Ibutho Coal has no place mining within the buffer area of this Park.