Napier mining application threatens critically endangered Renosterveld

February 26, 2024

A mining application outside the town of Napier in the Overberg is a direct threat to Critically Endangered renosterveld and freshwater habitats. As such, the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust (ORCT), a non-profit organisation working to protect renosterveld, is standing against this application, and is asking Overberg residents and those who care about nature to register as Interested and Affected Parties (I&APs).

 The mining application by unknown mining company Cienth, a shell company with no record of relevant mining activities, includes both Western and Central Rûens Shale Renosterveld, both listed as Critically Endangered, with only around 5% remaining in the world today. The application also includes Endangered Elim Ferricrete Fynbos. Of the original extent, there is also only 5% left globally.

 According to Grant Forbes, Conservation Manager of the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust, “These vegetation types are listed Nationally as Critical Biodiversity Areas and Ecological Sensitive Areas that have to be protected. Given that there is so little remaining, these habitats are already under tremendous pressure, and as such, every fragment of remaining natural land matters.” 

 Freshwater habitats at risk

 He says that prospecting and, if approved, mining operations will impact on the health of the entire system – from the land to the freshwater ecosystems. Numerous threatened species have been recorded in these vegetation types, and they would be at risk should this application get approval.

 “We are particularly worried about additional impact on underground water sources. Runoff from mining and prospecting sites will penetrate groundwater and end up in river systems. This means the Greater Overberg Region Groundwater is likely to be affected.”

 The Kars River system will be directly affected by the prospecting and mining. This river enters the Heuningnes River, which mouths into the ocean at the CapeNature reserve, the De Mond Nature Reserve. This forms part of the Heuningnes Estuary, an internationally recognised RAMSAR site.

 “Rare bird species are dependent on this site for breeding and foraging. From a marine perspective, it is of great importance serving as a breeding and feeding ground for fish. It simply cannot be that our protected RAMSAR sites can be placed in jeopardy in such a way,” Forbes says.

 The river system is also home to fynbos fish species such as a local species that is yet to be scientifically described (named Redfin), an Endangered freshwater fish threatened with extinction. A stable population has been found in the upper Kars River, just east of the prospecting site.

 The impact of dust

 Dust from the mining operation is also likely to affect both nature and agricultural areas. “Dust deposition on the natural vegetation around the prospecting and mining activities will alter vegetation communities, especially impacting on epiphytic lichens. Dust pollution will also affect the residents and food production in the region. Several producers exist within an 18km radius of the prospecting operation. Major crops will also likely be affected – at a time when we need to ensure our food security is maintained, working alongside our protected natural areas.”

 There have been many questions raised regarding the mining application by Cienth to date. This is the third time Cienth has announced its intent to explore. Since the first application, directors have changed within Cienth, as have the consultants. Forbes says, “We urgently need more information to better understand this application. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to register as Interested and Affected Parties – even if they’re not sure how to evaluate the application reports. Once they’ve registered, legal and environmental assistance will be available to them to help them assess the reports and get their comments in.” 

 People can register as I&APs by emailing McDonald Mdluli from Lwethuma Environmental Consultants at info@lwethuma.com or by phoning 079 242 1312