Questions surround dunes and mining

Strandfontein resident Basil Trout points at the sand dunes, which should not be removed.

Strandfontein residents do not want the sand dunes on Spine Road flattened until a sand mining company addresses them face-to-face.

They said it was “disgusting” and “unacceptable” that Maccsand Holding Company did not attend a public meeting called by ward councillor Elton Jansen at Strandfontein community hall on Thursday October 22.

He called the meeting to mobilise the community and encourage them to comment on the company’s application for environmental authorisation for sand mining and related activities on Erf 21168 and Erf 1212 by Monday November 2.

Maccsand applied to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, in accordance with the scoping and environmental impact assessment process, to mine the dunes.

Earlier this month Rughshana Daniels, environmental consultant for EnviroPro Consulting, based in Strand, sent out information relating to the public participation process (PPP) for the proposed sand mining activity, including a draft scoping report for the two erven and a flow-chart explaining the scoping and environmental impact assessment process – as per the relevant environmental legislation and regulations.

According to the scope report, the PPP would include the circulation of a notice of the process, such as an advertisement in the local newspaper, an on-site notice and liaising with community representatives, the registered landowner and the relevant community authorities.

It would also be distributed to various stakeholders in the government and local community members.

The area proposed to be mined is the size of about 12 rugby fields, bordered by Spine Road, Baden Powell Drive and Strandfontein sports grounds.

Ms Daniels told the Plainsman that neither she nor Maccsand had received an invitation to attend the meeting – and that in line with lockdown restrictions, large meetings were not allowed.

“I notified Mr Jansen that directives, which regulated environmental processes under restrictions posed by the lockdown, stated that large gatherings are still prohibited under lockdown alert level 1, and that an in-person public meeting and open days may not be held,” she said.

Ms Daniels said that Maccsand could not speak on behalf of the City of Cape Town but that the sand mining activity and the clearing of the dune may facilitate future development, such as housing.

She said it was the sand mining company’s business to extract raw sand material and rework it for various uses.

“In this regard, the sand will be provided to various industries with different use such as the cement industry, glass manufacturing, infrastructure development and construction industry,” she said.

She said the company would work with the local ward councillor and other community leaders to implement various community projects.

“Maccsand will donate to a local non-government that engages in humanitarian work in the community,” she said, adding that they also planned to launch a Maccsand bursary scheme.

Ms Daniels said another opportunity for public participation would be granted during the environmental impact assessment phase which will commence if the scoping report, currently in the public domain, for review and comment, is accepted by the department of Mineral Resources and Energy.

Ms Daniels said while the lockdown regulations were in place they would consult Mr Jansen to arrange a safe and effective manner to engage with the community.

Gerard Kemp, secretary of Strandfontein Municipal Facility Management Committee (MFMC), objected to the sand mining application, saying that in the past 18-months the area had been subjected to drilling for water in the aquifer regeneration project in all the dune areas around Strandfontein.

Mr Kemp said these vibrations caused the infestation of gerbils, snakes and burrowing rodents on the local sports field. “The holes made by these creatures resulted in the playing surfaces being destroyed and cancellation on a wide scale of football and cricket programmes,” he said.

The MFMC logged their objection stating that the potential sand mining next to the complex would remove a large portion of the fauna’s natural habitat, forcing them to seek sanctuary on the field.

“It is causing large-scale destruction to the fields and negatively affecting thousands of sports people from across Mitchell’s Plain as the local football association makes use of the complex for its league programmes and Western Province Cricket junior and senior games,” he said.

He said all of Strandfontein football, cricket, rugby and softball clubs use the complex for training during the week.

“We object to the natural setting of the sports field among the dunes being disrupted,” said Mr Kemp.

Resident Jerome Hoq said this was the third meeting about sand mining and the second one which focused on the same area. “This is something sinister. This is a set-up. We are the community and we have concerns. We will have our voices heard,” he said.

At a public meeting held two years ago Ms Daniels tabled a report for a five-hectare area, bordered by Baden Powell Drive, Spine Road and Camp Road in Strandfontein.

A week later the sand miners withdrew their application.

Nigel Savel, founder of 9Miles Project, which has been catering to the needs of Strandfontein’s needy, said the lives of the 120 families who live in Sewende Laan Informal Settlement were already endangered by motorists driving at speeds above 120km/h along nearby Baden Powell Drive and that sand on the road would make it even more unsafe.

Strandfontein Ratepayers’ Association chairman Mario Oostendurp said Strandfontein residents had a long history with the company, which initially had not identified itself at a previous meeting, and now applying to mine the same plot.

“It is not fair that this company comes in here, makes millions and then leaves. I would suggest a local company benefits and that the community benefits,” he said.

Strandbay Business Forum director Baronise Henry said: “We want this application stopped until they come and meet us before November 2.”

According to EnviroPro Consulting’s draft scoping report, the proposed mining area is located in a critical biodiversity area (CBA).

The erven includes land and water areas which should be safeguarded in their natural or near-natural state because they are critical for conserving biodiversity and maintaining ecosystem functioning. The removal of the vegetation and stockpiling of the topsoil would be disturbed during the mine life cycle.

Mayoral committee member for Spatial Planning and Environment Marian Nieuwoudt said these sites were important for biodiversity conservation and were listed in the City’s biodiversity network.