The Overberg

Western Cape, South Africa

Incredible natural world

The Overberg, in the Western Cape of South Africa, is well known for its rolling hills, wonderful beaches, picturesque towns and incredible natural world. The Overberg stretches from the Hottentots-Holland mountains in the west, to just past Swellendam in the east. Towns here include Bredasdorp, Napier, Hermanus, Caledon, Grabouw, Swellendam and Cape Agulhas. Around 360 000 people call this district home. That equates to around 92 000 households. 

Agriculture is the backbone of the district.

In fact, during the pandemic years, farming sustained the district. While farming contributes around 10% to the region’s GDPR, the jobs it creates exceeds this significantly, amounting to 21%. That number is even higher in terms of informal employment – reaching nearly 29%.

The region that has been included in the mining application is particularly important in terms of grain farming. Here wheat, barley and canola are planted – serving as the breadbasket for the Western Cape. 

Livestock (sheep and cattle) are also farmed here as part of a rotational farming system. There are also a number of wine farms very close to the proposed mining sites. There are therefore significant concerns around the impact of mining on these agricultural activities, and the jobs they create and on the potential additional fallout, such as the impacts of dust on crops.


Tourism is an equally vital sector for the Overberg. 

From the wine farms, to the incredible vistas across the landscapes, more than 200 000 recorded visitors flocked to the Overberg in 2022. And they contributed 15% to the GDPR in the same year.

More than 10% of tourists said they visited the area to enjoy the scenic, relaxing drives. Nearly 20% came to the district to enjoy the cuisine – with a strong focus on enjoying the wine routes here, including the Agulhas Wine Route. However, this route is in jeopardy as a direct result of the prospecting application submitted by Cienth.

Entire ecosystems now face extinction.

Tourism would also be affected should the region’s natural drawcard disappear. Aside from the green rolling hills that feed a nation, there is also abundant nature in the Overberg. In the mountains and valleys across the district, incredible habitats support large communities of life, from the Cape leopard that moves silently across the mountains, to the tiny pollinators that rely on these natural landscapes. Even in the waterscapes, Endangered freshwater fish species occur that are found nowhere else on Earth, and would most certainly leap closer to extinction as a result of these proposed mining activities.

In the areas proposed by Cienth to prospect for minerals, we find some of the most threatened habitats on Earth: Critically Endangered Western and Central Rûens Renosterveld are found on parcels of land between the farming landscape. Only 5% of these renosterveld types remains today – therefore losing any more of this habitat could result in a likely extinction. Endangered Elim Ferricrete Fynbos is also found on the mountain slopes where prospecting has been proposed. Only 5% remains of this diverse fynbos habitat too.

The future of the Overberg is also closely connected to the availability of water. 

Healthy groundwater is essential to society. Across the Overberg, there are many intricate river systems that are connected, feeding each other and the groundwater that we rely on.

For example, close to the most southerly tip, the Nuwejaars wetlands make up the largest wetland system in South Africa. These waterscapes feed entire communities downstream, including the towns of Agulhas and Struisbaai. What’s more, they also form part of the National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Areas. These waterscapes are connected to rivers further inland, including the Kars River. The Kars River, however, is at the heart of the proposed mining operation.