Comment from a Wilderness guide

Dear Karl,
Will you please register me as an Interested and Affected Party for the abovementioned project?
I would also like to object to the mining taking place.
In principle I object for the same reasons as the Gaia Foundation (document attached).
However, I would like to make a specific plea as a freelance wilderness trail guide with the Wilderness Leadership School.
I have taken hundreds of people of  both genders, many races and many different ages on wilderness trails in the wilderness section of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park over the past ten years or so. As you may know, this is part of the Wilderness Leadership School mission started by Dr Ian Player and Magqubu Ntombela in the 1950’s. Close on 50 000 people have been taken on such trails already, and hundreds, if not thousands, have commented on how such trails changed their lives for the better. Dr Player published a book that consisted solely of quotes from such comments.
One night on trail I was awakened by a very scared girl on night watch. The source of her fear turned out to be the Somkhele mine, the noise of which we occasionally hear on trail and substantially detracts from the wilderness experience when it happens. The noise and light emanating from the proposed Fuleni mine would effectively destroy the wilderness experience.
Apart from possibly some private reserves, the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and the Pilanesberg game Reserves are at present the only parks where it is possible to have a wilderness experience that includes doing night watch. At present the quality of wilderness experiences is much higher in iMfolozi than in Pilanesberg, for the very reason that light- and noise pollution has already taken its toll in Pilanesberg. It is possible to do wilderness trails in the Kruger National Park, but these do not, as far as I know, include night watch and are of a very different nature than those in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. These trails may also be threatened by escalating poaching and anti-poaching activities. The Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park may therefore be the last Park where something relatively close to a true wilderness experience may be experienced in South Africa.
It strikes me that no mention has been made of this aspect in the scoping report. Wilderness trails are very different from tourist activities.
I might also mention that the Wilderness Leadership School has gone to extreme lengths to employ only full-time guides from the communities surrounding the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. I am a freelance guide.
Furthermore I quote from the website of the Magqubu Ntombela Foundation: “The Foundation is committed to encouraging the youth of today – the future leaders of our wonderful country – to embrace nature and protect our heritage, and to support conservation and community-based projects. The Foundation is also dedicated to increasing conservation awareness amongst all the peoples of Southern Africa, to exemplify how one can live harmoniously, practically and spiritually with our land, with each other and within ourselves.” This particular objective is impossible without the wilderness experience – an experience which will effectively be destroyed by the proposed Fuleni mine.
I would therefore like to argue that the establishment of the Fuleni anthracite mine will, through the undermining of the wilderness experience in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, have radical negative effects on conservation and the human spirit in general that cannot possibly weigh up against the permanent destruction of the park boundary and the short term benefits for relatively few inherent in the project.
Finally I would personally like to offer to take any of the decision makers involved in the project, including the minister, on a wilderness trail in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.
Thank you,
Douwe van der Zee

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