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Overberg Arborists' Submission Suggestions

The Renosterveld's lawyer is working on a list with key points and generic words which can be used in the submission. This list will become available in the week of 9 July 2024. 

Comments and Objections Against the Cienth Mining Application

1. Environmental Destruction

The proposed mining operations by Cienth will irreparably harm the Critically Endangered renosterveld and surrounding farmlands between Napier and Caledon. These ecosystems are home to unique flora and fauna that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The Western and Central Rûens Shale Renosterveld are already on the brink of extinction, with only 5% of their original extent remaining. Any disturbance, particularly from large-scale mining, will push these habitats beyond the point of recovery, resulting in the permanent loss of biodiversity. This is a critical consideration, as the conservation of these areas is not only a local but a global responsibility.

2. Water Resource Depletion

Mining operations require vast amounts of water, a resource already scarce in the Overberg Rûens, which receives an average of only 450mm of rainfall annually. The proposed use of pressured water from local aquifers to blast away soil will further strain our limited water reserves. This depletion will negatively impact not only the immediate environment but also the water availability for downstream agricultural activities and human consumption. The prospect of mining in this water-scarce region is untenable, threatening the sustainability of local water supplies and the livelihoods dependent on them.

3. Acid-Mine Drainage

One of the most concerning impacts of the proposed mining operations is the risk of acid-mine drainage. The process of mining often exposes sulfide minerals, which can lead to the formation of sulfuric acid when they come into contact with water and air. This polluted runoff can drain into local watercourses, contaminating both groundwater and surface water. The Kars River, which feeds into the Heuningnes River and subsequently the Ramsar-listed Heuningnes Estuary, would be particularly vulnerable. The estuary is a critical habitat for numerous bird species and other wildlife, and its contamination would have far-reaching ecological consequences.

4. Soil Degradation

Open-cast mining, the method proposed for the region, involves removing vast quantities of soil to access mineral deposits. This process can result in significant soil degradation and erosion, diminishing the land's agricultural potential. The removal of topsoil and the disruption of soil structure can lead to long-term fertility loss, making it difficult to restore the land for farming or natural habitat restoration. This degradation will not only affect current crop yields but will also have lasting impacts on the region's agricultural viability.

5. Impact on Agriculture

The Overberg region is renowned for its agricultural productivity, particularly in crops such as wheat, barley, canola, and grapes. The introduction of large-scale mining operations will disrupt farming activities, leading to reduced crop yields and quality. The noise, dust, and vibrations from mining machinery will have detrimental effects on the delicate balance required for successful crop cultivation. Additionally, the displacement of farming land for mining purposes will reduce the area available for agriculture, directly impacting food production and local farmers' livelihoods.

6. Loss of Biodiversity

The renosterveld and surrounding natural habitats are home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, many of which are endemic and cannot survive elsewhere. Mining activities will destroy these habitats, leading to a significant loss of biodiversity. This loss is irreversible, as once these unique ecosystems are disturbed, they cannot be restored to their original state. The conservation of biodiversity is crucial for maintaining ecological balance and supporting ecosystem services that benefit both nature and human communities.

7. Impact on Local Communities

The socio-economic impact on local communities cannot be overstated. While the mining company may promise job creation, the reality is that the number of jobs created will be minimal compared to those lost in the agricultural and tourism sectors. The Overberg region relies heavily on these industries for employment and economic stability. The disruption caused by mining operations will lead to job losses, reduced income, and economic hardship for many families. The long-term socio-economic benefits of preserving the region's natural and agricultural heritage far outweigh the short-term gains from mining.

8. Threat to Tourism

The Overberg region is a popular destination for tourists, drawn by its natural beauty, tranquility, and agricultural attractions such as wine farms. The introduction of mining operations will dramatically alter the landscape, making it less appealing to visitors. The noise, dust, and environmental degradation associated with mining will deter tourists, leading to a decline in tourism revenue. This decline will have a ripple effect on local businesses that rely on tourism, further exacerbating economic challenges for the region.

9. Flooding Risks

The topography of the Overberg region makes it susceptible to flooding, a risk that will be exacerbated by mining activities. According to experts, the disturbance of the land and changes to natural drainage patterns can increase the likelihood of flooding events. Recent unusual weather patterns and unseasonal flooding events highlight the vulnerability of the region to such risks. The community will bear the brunt of these impacts, facing potential property damage, loss of agricultural land, and increased financial burdens.

10. Long-term Environmental Impact

The projected 30-year lifespan of the mine means that any negative impacts will be felt for decades. Even if rehabilitation efforts are undertaken, the damage to the environment and local communities will have already been done. The legacy of mining often includes abandoned sites, contaminated land, and ongoing environmental challenges that last long after the mining operations have ceased. The responsibility for addressing these issues often falls on future generations, creating a lasting burden for our children and grandchildren.

11. Inadequate Gold Reserves

Experts, including a former chief geologist for PetroSA, Jean Malan, have assessed the gold grade in the region at only 0.3g per ton. This is not sufficient to justify a viable mining operation. The historical context further supports this, with previous prospectors in the 1880s abandoning their efforts due to insufficient funds and poor prospects. The likelihood of finding economically viable amounts of gold, silver, and tin in the region is minimal, raising questions about the true motivations behind the mining application.

12. Questionable Motives

Given the low probability of finding viable mineral deposits, the motivations behind Cienth's application are suspect. The company has no website and a single director appointed recently, raising concerns about its legitimacy and transparency. The potential for speculative activities, rather than genuine mining efforts, cannot be ignored. This uncertainty adds another layer of risk for the local community and environment.

13. Irreparable Harm to Endangered Species

The Kars River and its tributaries are home to the Heuningnes Redfin and other Endangered freshwater fish species. Mining activities and the associated pollution will threaten these species with extinction. Protecting these vulnerable populations is critical for maintaining biodiversity and ecological health in the region.

14. Legal and Ethical Considerations

The mining application raises significant legal and ethical concerns. The destruction of Critically Endangered habitats and the potential violation of environmental protection laws cannot be justified. There is a moral imperative to preserve the natural heritage of the Overberg region for future generations, rather than sacrificing it for short-term, speculative gains.

15. Community Opposition

The overwhelming opposition from local communities, environmental groups, and agricultural stakeholders reflects the widespread recognition of the negative impacts of the proposed mining operations. Ignoring this opposition would undermine democratic processes and community rights, further eroding trust in regulatory authorities and governance.

16. Alternative Sustainable Development

Instead of pursuing environmentally destructive mining operations, there are opportunities to invest in sustainable development initiatives that benefit the local community and environment. Renewable energy projects, ecotourism, and sustainable agriculture can provide long-term economic benefits without compromising the region's natural resources and ecological integrity.

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