Mine could destroy Elands Bay wetlands.

May 3, 2010 by: admin

Oppenheimer scion Mary Slack, whose fortune is built on diamonds and gold, is fighting to save her trophy stud farm in the Western Cape from destruction – at the hands of a mining company.

Slack is part of a coalition of landowners and environmentalists who are trying to block Bongani Minerals from mining tungsten in the Moutonshoek valley, a pastoral idyll of fynbos, orchards and horse paddocks 50km northwest of Piketberg.

“I’m unutterably opposed,” she said. “(A mine) will just ruin the whole area. It’s just a catastrophe, an environmental catastrophe, and personally it’s a catastrophe.”

She established her Wilgerbosdrift stud in the valley 10 years ago and has bred legendary horses like Dynasty, horse of the year and Durban July winner in 2003, and Asylum Seeker, the champion two-year-old filly in 2006.

“I should think we have far greater possibilities of earning foreign exchange (from horse exports) than a lousy bit of tungsten,” Slack said.

Asked if there was irony in the daughter of Harry Oppenheimer fighting a mining company, Slack quoted the Biblical proverb about visiting the sins of the fathers on their children, and continued: “I fail to see what it has to do with anything. I think there’s every reason to oppose it just on environmental grounds. The fact that it would ruin my farm is incidental, really.”

Bongani Minerals and its environmental consultants held an “open day” in Piketberg this week to address the concerns of those opposed to their application for a prospecting licence.

Farm owners and workers harangued Bongani directors Johannes van der Walt and Mike Reynolds, saying a mine would generate toxic dust and pollute the valley’s water, which flows into the Verlorenvlei on the coast at Elands Bay – an internationally recognised wetland.

Jacqui van der Merwe, who with her husband, Bennie, breeds horses and grows export fruit in the valley, said that among other things a mine would coat their table grapes in tainted dust.

Tungsten was first found in the area in the ’70s by Anglo American, but the deposit was not regarded as worth mining.

Van der Walt said only a full prospecting programme and environmental impact study would show if the concerns were well founded: “I think we’ve put a lot of fears to rest. But the principle still is their lifestyle that they feel they’re going to lose. That’s just the nature of the business. You can’t say a mine is going to make the place prettier. You’re going to have a dump there.”

News sponsored by West Coast Office National for all your printing & stationery needs.www.pencil.co.za

Filed under: Water
Tags: