CAPE ZIRCON MINING THREAT
Some background information.
On 7 April 2021, Cape Zircon (Pty) Ltd lodged two applications - each termed as a ‘Basic Assessment Report and Environmental Management Report’ - with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) for prospecting rights and environmental authorisation in two extensive areas located within the Cederberg Municipality on the West Coast. Minerals that will be prospected for include diamonds, gold ore, heavy minerals, rare earths and mineral sands.
The applications have been compiled for Cape Zircon (Pty) Ltd by an Environmental Assessment Practitioner affiliated with Archean Resources (Pty) Ltd, an independent consulting company.
Both application documents follow the same template and outline:
The public participation process.
An overview of the region’s environment and socio-economic structure.
An Environmental Impact Statement.
An Environmental Management Program Report.
Both conclude with leading closure objectives that pertain to factors concerning the rehabilitation of the area to be prospected.
The first Basic Assessment Report and Environmental Management Report is 104 pages long and deals with a massive inland application area (figure 1) consisting of more than 23 800 hectares of farmland. This oval-shaped area is nestled between the R365 Regional Route to the south and the R364 Regional Route to the north, with the town of Leipoldtville at the bottom-center position, Lambert’s Bay at the upper left, and Graafwater at the upper right.
The second report is 107 pages long and pertains to a much greater inland application area (figure 2) of more than 46 100 hectares (nearly double the size of the area covered by the first report) of farmland. Lambert’s Bay lies to the bottom left corner and Graafwater to the bottom right corner of this triangular area, which is located north of the R364. When figures 1 and 2 are compared, it is evident that prospecting would virtually take place on one large area that is divided only by the R364 and small fringes of farmland.
According to both applications, the prospecting process will be conducted in five phases, where each phase is dependent on the outcome of the previous one.
Phases are as follows:
Using digital mapping and satellite imagery, data obtained from private sources, and analysing any existing data on prospecting in the area.
Surface mapping and sampling. Surface sampling will entail manually digging 200 holes of 50 cm x 50 cm and 1 m deep for laboratory analysis. This will take up to three months.
Surveying the mapped area by means of a grid consisting of 500 m x 500 m demarcated squares. A total of 100 auger drill holes of 4 m deep are planned initially with the option to follow up with additional drilling. This phase is expected to be 18 months long. Existing roads will be utilised with “new tracks only permitted in exceptional circumstances”. There is no indication of what would render circumstances as exceptional.
Air Core drilling up to 20 m, with 50 designated holes. Air Core drilling of more holes may also be required “depending on results”. In Air Core drilling, steel or tungsten blades are used to drill into soft ground. Drill cuttings are then removed by injecting compressed air into the hole. This process is expected to take 12 months.
All prospecting data will be analysed and compiled in a report to determine the potential of undertaking major mining operations in the area. The analysis is estimated to be completed within 12 months.
Water will be supplied from local towns, where staff and workers will also be accommodated. Existing roads and tracks will be utilised for drilling and, when none are available, drilling vehicles will drive into the veld. According to the applications, this results in minimal damage to the area.
Key Interested and Affected Parties (I&APs) have been notified of the prospecting project via :
An advertisement in the local newspaper, Ons Kontrei.
Site notice placements at the Local Municipality, Post Office, Farms and library.
Email and hard copy submissions of a Basic Assessment report.
A Background Information Document that was distributed to landowners, the community and interested parties on the 1st of April 2021.
Public meetings are scheduled at Don Burrell Hall in Lambert’s Bay on Wednesday, 5 May 2021 at 2 PM, at Doring Bay on Thursday, 6 May 2021 at 9:30 AM, and at Ebenezer Hall on Friday, 7 May at 10 AM. Virtual meetings will also be scheduled, and I&APs will be notified with a link to the meeting at least five days in advance. Comments and responses to the Basic Assessment report will then be submitted to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.
Hard copies of the two aforementioned Basic Assessment Report and Environmental Management Reports (the application documents) have also been made available at local public libraries, primary schools and municipal offices, and are available via mail on request. They will be open for review until Monday, 10 May 2021.
Comments and responses received during the entire process will be collated, and an amended report “based on the comments of commenting authorities” will then be made available to I&APs.
Figure 1: This oval-shaped area is nestled between the R365 Regional Route to the south and the R364 Regional Route to the north, with the town of Leipoldtville at the bottom-center position, Lambert’s Bay at the upper left, and Graafwater at the upper right. An area of 23 800 hectares.
Figure 2: 46 100 hectares (nearly double the size of the area covered by the first report) of farmland. Lambert’s Bay lies to the bottom left corner and Graafwater to the bottom right corner of this triangular area, which is located north of the R364.