Exxaro's Fairbreeze Mine suffers setback

Posted On Friday, 02 December 2011 02:00 Published by
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Exxaro's proposed Fairbreeze mine in KwaZulu-Natal has suffered a setback with the Department of Agriculture, rejecting the company's basic assessment report.

By Sherilee L Lakmidas

Diversified resources company Exxaro's proposed Fairbreeze mine in KwaZulu-Natal has suffered a setback with the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs and Rural Development rejecting the company's basic assessment report (BAR).

According to community groups who have been lobbying for the preservation of the area near Richards Bay, Exxaro has kept the rejection of the report a secret.

The Mtunzini Conservancy, one of the members of the SOS Campaign aimed at saving the quiet coastal town of Mtunzini, said on Thursday that the report was rejected in early October but that it had only got to know about it late in November when its attorney inquired into the pending decision.

"Although we are extremely pleased to discover that the BAR has been rejected - an outcome that we have been hoping to hear for some time - we were shocked to find out that we had been kept in the dark about the department's decision for weeks," said the Mtunzini Conservancy chairperson Barbara Chedzey.

Exxaro announced in mid-November that it planned to develop the Fairbreeze mine at a cost of R2.5 billion after the project was shelved in 2009 due to the global economic downturn.

Fairbreeze mine, situated south of Mtunzini, is being developed as a replacement feedstock producer for the current Hillendale mine, which is expected to end its full production operations in 2012.

"The group is awaiting regulatory approval for certain environmental processes prior to commencing with construction of these regulated activities.

"Depending on when construction starts, it is anticipated that the mine could be operational in the second half of 2014," the company said, adding that Fairbreeze had a life expectancy of about 15 years.

Exxaro said that the new mine would preserve more than 1,000 permanent and contractor positions currently at KZN Sands, and about 1,000 indirect jobs.

It also suggested that these jobs would be lost if KZN Sands was forced to close should a new feedstock producing mine not be developed.

The group also explained that it had decided to prepare a BAR and not a Scoping and Environmental Impact Report (S&EIR) due to the wealth of scoping information already available at the Fairbreeze area, which was subject to several environmental assessments since the mine's first inception in 1998.

"Some 33 specialist studies have been undertaken in and around Fairbreeze," the company said in a statement.

It is based on these previous assessments that Exxaro motivated, and was given permission by the department, to prepare a BAR instead of a S&EIR.

But it is a S&EIA that the community of Mtunzini is appealing to the independent Environmental Practitioner (EAP) overseeing the case of Fairbreeze Mine to consider.

With the rejection of the original BAR, the EAP would need to supply any additional information that the department requires, said the Mtunzini Conservancy.

This could involve the undertaking of further studies or reports with regard to the proposed activities at the mine, as well as the consideration of viable and reasonable alternatives.

At this stage, the EAP could subject the application to a full S&EIA.

"From the very beginning of this ordeal, all we have ever wanted was for the correct and thorough assessments on the impact that this mining would have on the environment to be performed. From the knowledge we have gained from many environmental organisations, we feel that this can only be achieved through a S&EIA," stated Chedzey.

The appeal of the Mtunzini Residents Association and Mtunzini Conservancy is for alternative mining methods to be evaluated, ones that do not lead to large amounts of water being used in an area which is already short of water, as well as methods that do not result in huge waste areas from slimes dams that are incapable of rehabilitation in the future, remaining as grotesque scars on the landscape forever more.

"We feel that this rejection of the BAR is a step in the right direction, but there are many more challenges that still lie ahead in order for the desired outcome to be achieved," said Chedzey.

Source: I-Net Bridge

Publisher: I-Net Bridge
Source: I-Net Bridge

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