Words by Steve Pike.
Old rustic huts that are scattered all over the area. Used by surfers and travellers for rest against the harsh winter weather. Image by Ant Fox.
In a sign that destructive open cast mines are spreading south towards Cape Town, a last untouched wilderness of the South African West Coast has been earmarked for heavy sand mineral mining.
Nekwana Trading Enterprise (Pty) Ltd has submitted a prospecting application to mine, which will lead to digging up a 15km stretch of beach in the Western Cape – Soutrivier Mouth (Salt River Mouth) to the southern border of the Northern Cape.
The requested concession, which lies not far north of the Olifants River Estuary, covers a 45 square kilometre triangle of terrain that stretches inland for six kilometres, and includes the artefact-rich Karoetjies Kop, an ancient koppie 436 feet high that is home to various stone age middens and graves, many unmarked and very old.
The prospecting application area. Image by Google Maps.
The Managing Director of Protect the West Coast, Mike Schlebach, said: “This application must not be approved. This land is a deeply spiritual space with significant meaning to local communities, a place where ancestors speak to your soul. Beyond its cultural heritage, it is a place richly imbued with unique flora and fauna that have evolved in this harsh landscape for millions of years.”
The application area. Untouched and raw. Beautiful and pristine. How it should be kept. Image by Sacha Specker.
“Because it is so remote, and out of sight, it falls prey to the gaze of greedy miners who feel they can quietly turn the stark, mystical natural beauty of this coast into a devastated moonscape. We cannot let this happen,” he said.
Part of the attraction of this culturally significant and naturally diverse region can also be found along its coastline in the form of perfect waves. The area is home to numerous world-class surf spots, where world champion surfers, surfing celebrities and international surf brands have shot surf films that feature its perfect, tubing waves and pristine deserted backdrops.
The perfect waves that will be off limits to the public should the application get approved. Images by Sacha Specker and Ant Fox.
There is a potentially catastrophic threat posed by the application on the area, which would result in all recreational access being shut off, including activities such as mountain biking, trail running, fishing, hiking and camping.
The location even hosted the Namakwa Challenge, an off-grid World Surf League speciality event that attracted the world’s best surfers in 2021.
See more on the Namakwa Challenge here: https://www.protectthewestcoast.org/post/namakwa-challenge-surfing-event-heralds-another-way-to-sustainably-utilise-the-west-coast
“If we don’t stop this, there may be no waves left at all, let alone wild beaches and coastline to enjoy for any activity. What’s more, if this application is approved, it will mean another wild space gets added to an already unacceptable majority of the entire West Coast, which is in danger of becoming one massive mining site, all the way from Lambert’s Bay to the Namibian border. That’s more than 500km of coast!”
It was also pertinent to note that failure to stop this outdated and destructive form of mining, which rips up beaches to extract minerals for every-day use such as cosmetics with little to no rehabilitation, did not just mean loss of access to beaches. It meant the loss of heritage sites, the degradation of biodiverse areas and fragile ecosystems, the pollution of the surrounding marine environments, the loss of livelihood to local fishers and a general decline in nearby communities, Schlebach said.
“What goes against the sense of community is that miners from the outside come here and cut off access to the beach from local people, and despite mostly empty promises, they put little back into the local community either. Our legal and media team are working on responses to the application, which is part of a sudden upturn in prospecting applications. We are working on a strategy to challenge the application as part of our mandate to enforce mining oversight and offer sustainable alternatives that benefit the local people, through media coverage, legal action and grassroots activism,” he said.
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We cannot stand by and let this happen. Let’s make a big noise about this one.