This article appeared in the Mercury on Thursday, 9 April 2015
By Tony Carnie
LAWYERS have urged government regulators to reject the latest “hopelessly inadequate” environmental scoping report to mine coal on the border of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.
Environmental law specialist Kirsten Youens said an amended scoping report published last month still failed to deal properly with the negative social and environmental impacts of mining coal next to Africa’s oldest wilderness area.
An earlier report was also rejected last year by the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs because it was concerned that rural people had not been consulted properly about the possibility of homesteads and farming plots having to be relocated.
The department was also concerned Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife had not been engaged adequately around creating a wider buffer zone between the mine and the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.
An amended report was published last month, but according to Youens Attorneys: “The report is hopelessly inadequate in the manner in which it has addressed the environmental issues and potential impacts of the (mining), particularly given the high-impact nature of the activity and the close proximity to local communities and to the wilderness area of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.”
Youens attorneys, representing the Global Environmental Trust and Save Our Imfolozi Wilderness, said the latest report should also be rejected because it acknowledged there was no viable water source to feed the proposed Ibutho Coal Mine.
In a letter addressed to the provincial departments of Water Affairs, Environment Affairs and Mineral Resources, Youens said water supplies from the Mfolozi River system were already stressed. It was therefore “preposterous” to suggest that water could be collected from a smaller river that fed the Mfolozi.
Youens said the report, compiled by consultants Jacana Environmentals and Naledi Development, had also failed to identify feasible or reasonable alternatives to the mining location.
Lizinda Dickson, the public participation manager for Naledi Development, said: “We can confirm that we have received comments on the amended Final Scoping Report. We are in the process of reviewing the comments and will therefore not be able to respond to the comments at this time, but do reserve the right to do so later.”