27 November, 2020 27 November, 2020

Protect the West Coast

Mining Companies have a plan for the West Coast of South Africa that will destroy hundreds of kilometers of pristine coastal environments, disrupting local communities, fisheries, tourism, and the rugged natural beauty of this globally recognised biodiversity hotspot.

From Cape Columbine to the Orange River, hundreds of kilometers of South Africa’s West Coast coastline are currently being mined, or have been earmarked for mining. These industrial-scale extractions will have lasting consequences for local communities, fisheries and the natural environment, for generations to come.

Beyond the plethora of diverse, world class surf breaks, South Africa’s West Coast is part of the Cape Floristic Region and inside the Fynbos biome, the West Coast is home to thousands of species of unique plants, most of which are found nowhere else in the world. UNESCO has identified the Cape Floristic Region Protected Areas as World Heritage Sites, these include the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve and the Namaqua National Park. The whole area is a biodiversity hotspot with the largest concentration of succulent plants in the world. Some of these mines have been approved in areas that have been demarcated as critical biodiversity areas.

Cold, nutrient-rich waters upwelling along the West Coast fuel high rates of phytoplankton growth that sustain the highly productive Benguela ecosystem. These interconnected ecosystems are a haven for marine life such as whales, dolphins, seals, fish, birds, land mammals, reptiles, plant and unique insect and invertebrate habitat. These coastal waters also support a thriving fishing industry (appox 25 000 people) and provide food and livelihoods to thousands of small-scale fishers who live in towns and small settlements along the West Coast.

Despite the creation of short term jobs, mining adversely affects ecosystems and has a detrimental knock-on effect to the broader West Coast environment, economy and society. The risks associated with the current and projected mining activities are as follows:

– Disturbance and destruction of marine life on mined beaches.

– Destabilisation of fisheries and fishing communities.

– Impacts on already scarce water resources.

– Air pollution from mining activities.

– Increased roads and traffic footprint.

– Visual impacts on local population and tourism.

– Loss of access to beaches and coastline for recreational activities such as surfing and angling.

– Damage to the fragile dune system, which has evolved over millions of years as part of the natural interface between land and sea.

– Alteration of the natural beach profile, and its dynamic equilibrium with the wave energy.

– Knock-on impacts on land-based ecosystems.

– Loss of archaeological resources and fossils.

– Loss of indigenous heritage sites.

So What Now? Sign the petition!

Protect the West Coast aims to show and tell the world what is happening along this pristine coastline: “The reality is that this area is under siege by a slew of multinational mining companies that seem to have the unequivocal backing of the SA Government. So far large scale, extractive mining operations have gone unchallenged along the Weskus, primarily because the area is sparsely inhabited and many communities are under-developed and exist in poor socio-economic circumstances.”

“There are numerous new mining applications in the pipeline and a proposal for a massive shipping port near Port Nolloth to support the mining industry. If things carry on without proper engagement and oversight by the people of South Africa, then the natural environmental splendor of the West Coast could be lost forever.”

The West Coast desperately needs infrastructural investment and jobs to improve the lives and livelihoods of the local population. But are large scale, industrial extractive multinational mining operations, that destroy biodiversity and upend the natural environment, the best tool for achieving those goals?

To learn more, check out the Protect the West Coast website, Instagram and Facebook.

All images © Alan van Gysen.

1 Comment

  1. Arellano567
    27 December, 2020 at 2:39 pm · Reply

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