By Tony Carnie
The much-anticipated public showdown over the controversial coal mine next to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi game reserve has been called off until further notice.
The meeting, originally scheduled for Monday morning at KwaMbonambi, was cancelled yesterday by public participation and environmental consultants acting for Ibutho Coal.
The purpose of the meeting was to allow mining consultants to present the draft findings of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the proposal to members of the local community, along with environmental and other interest groups.
The location of the proposed open-cast coal mine, less than 100m from Africa’s oldest game reserve and wilderness area, has attracted widespread criticism locally and internationally.
It is also located on communal land that would require the relocation of several homesteads, although the mining company has yet to disclose how many homes stand to be destroyed.
Ibutho consultants apologised for the cancellation yesterday.
Spokeswoman Marietjie Eksteen said several comments had been received from interested parties, including groups that asked for time to study the draft EIA and other studies before the meeting.
If the mine is approved, coal will be blasted out of the ground for the next 32 years directly alongside the Ocilwane, Nthuthunga, Novunula, Efuyeni and Shayamoya communities.
Although the company has promised to create about 300 jobs, some community members are worried about losing their homes, grazing land, farming plots, gravesites and other community infrastructure.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and several environmental groups fear that noise, dust, floodlights and blasting will cause unacceptable impacts in the adjoining 32 000ha wilderness zone of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi|Park.
Managers of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and World Heritage Site also fear the mining plan could have negative impacts on Lake St Lucia owing to acid mine water pollution and reduced water flows.
The Ibutho mine would require up to 3.5 million litres of water daily, while neighbouring towns like Mtubatuba already face water shortages.
Ibutho plans to ship most of the anthracite coal to industrial furnaces in China, India and other export markets, with some lower-grade coals supplied to local industries.
- For more details, contact Lizinda Dickson at 012 5439 093 or firstname.lastname@example.org
This article appeared in the Mercury on Friday 8 May, 2015