Town, 22 June 2009. One of the very few coastal fresh water
lakes in South Africa, Verlorenvlei,
near Elands Bay on South Africa’s west coast, is being threatened
by a proposed tungsten open cast mine.
BirdLife South Africa, the leading
bird conservation organisation in South Africa, is extremely concerned
that a mining licence may be issued to Bongani Minerals by the
Department of Mining (previously the Department of Mineral and Energy
Affairs). This would give Bongani Minerals the right to develop
an open cast mine on 500 hectares of land adjacent
to the area which is the main source of water for Verlorenvlei.
Conservationists believe that this will have a major impact on Verlornvlei,
one of the few coastal fresh water wetlands in South Africa.
Verlorenvlei, on the west coast, is a wetland system mainly fed
by the Krom Antonies River. It is believed that mining will impact
on water flow into this river and thus ultimately into the Verlorenvlei
wetland. Some of these devastating effects would be the pollution
of groundwater, de-watering in the mining area resulting
in reduced flows into the wetland, and siltation
of the Verlorenvlei.
Verlorenvlei is home to up to 20,000 individual birds in
the summer months, and to three globally near-threatened
and eight nationally threatened bird species. It also supports
over a quarter of the Western Cape population’s of
Great White Pelicans (up to 400 individuals). The diversity
of birds found in the wetland is significant, with 189 species
being recorded, 75 of which are waterbirds. It is also a critically
important moulting ground and summer refuge for many species of
ducks, some of which occur at the wetland in large
numbers. These include Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler and South
BirdLife South Africa believes that
this important wetland cannot be destroyed, particularly because
of its significance for the well being of many birds in the Western
Smith, Manager of BirdLife South Africa’s Conservation Division
says “This is an inappropriate mining proposal which may affect
one of South Africa`s most important and scarce coastal
fresh water wetlands. More significantly and of important
concern is the cumulative loss of wetlands in South Africa. We cannot
continue to destroy our national water resources in this way”.
Initial indications are that the mine will also have long-term
negative social and economic implications, so both the
area’s people and its natural environment will be affected.
It would appear that jobs will be lost because of the effect the
mine will have on agriculture in the area, but the number of jobs
created by the mine will be less than current levels.
At this stage, BirdLife South Africa has, as part of the Verlorenvlei
Coalition, submitted concerns to the environmental consultants and
will monitor the environmental impact assessment process very closely.
The Verlorenvlei Coalition has also made its position clear, stating
that ”Such a mine - with an expected life of 20 years - is
a short-term opportunity for a big company to make huge profits,
at the expense of long-term livelihoods and the natural heritage
of the people of Verlorenvallei”
A meeting was called by officials from the Department of Mining
on 12 June 2009, where both the applicants and “objectors”
were allowed to present their cases prior to the possible granting
of mining rights. Depending on the Department’s decision,
BirdLife South Africa will consider further steps to ensure that
the Verorenvlei wetland is not destroyed.
About Birding Africa
Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company
customising tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders.
We combine interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, botany and
other natural history aspects and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's
most diverse birding destinations. Our guides'
knowledge of African birds and birding areas is our greatest strength
and together we have rediscovered species, shared exciting observations
with the birding community and had a fun time exploring our home continent.
We've even written two acclaimed guide
books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds.
Birding is more than our passion, it's our lifestyle, and we are dedicated
to making professional, best value trips filled with endemic species and
unique wildlife experiences. Since 1997, we've run bird watching tours
in South Africa and further into Africa for individual birders, small
birding groups and top international tour companies. We've run Conservation
Tours in association with the African Bird Club and work with and
consult for a number of other top international tour companies and the
BBC Natural History Unit.