Daily Maverick: Rape of a conservation area: iMfolozi Wilderness versus Ibutho Coal


Photo by Jan Willem Grandia

By Braam Malherbe

The iMfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal is fighting battles on many fronts. Human settlements, agriculture, poaching and mining are all challenging the existence of this important wilderness area. We must consider the impact of coal mining on the boundary of iMfolozi, specifically regarding the proposed Fuleni mine, and question the integrity of the process.

This year, 2014, is a pivotal time in the life of the iMfolozi Game Reserve, situated 270km north of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, as human settlements, farming, poaching and three coal mines challenge its existence. Another open-cast coal mine currently being proposed by Ibutho Coal poses a direct threat to the pristine wilderness area of the park.

The proposed Fuleni mine poses a severe environmental threat to a fragile conservation area situated in the south of the reserve. The iMfolozi Wilderness section of the park is part of the last 1% of true wilderness left in South Africa, and Ibutho Coal is preparing to establish an open–cast coal mine only 40 metres from its boundary fence.

Questions are already being raised about the integrity and thoroughness of the scoping process, which has just been completed, and the planned environmental impact assessment (EIA) process is already showing signs of being rushed to completion.

One has to ask why such an endeavour should be permitted when we consider our international counterparts, such as Australia, who are closing down coal mines in favor of renewables. Another bone of contention is that there is no shortage of coal on the mass, international market, and the Fuleni mine is targeting an overseas market with aims to export coal to China, India and other areas.

iMfolozi game reserve, part of the Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, is the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa. It is home to a vast array of wildlife, including the Big Five. A substantial portion of the park is designated as a wilderness area and the park is known for its rich wildlife and conservation efforts. In 1958, Dr Ian Player, an avid conservationist with an inbuilt love of nature, fought to set aside the iMfolozi region as a natural area where people could come to escape the stresses of modern life. Player invested years into iMfolozi with his plans to save the white rhino from extinction. In 1953 there were 437 white rhino left and in 2013 alone 1004 rhinos were poached. Operation Rhino was launched in 1962 where rhinos were darted and removed from parks, game reserves and farms in South Africa and were shipped to a safer home in zoos and parks overseas to ensure their future.

The proposed mine is a direct threat to the dedicated conservation efforts of Player, as it will open up the area providing a safe passage for poaching syndicates. Read more………

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