Sand mining plans under scrutiny

Pictured at the back, from left, are Angie du Plessis, and Maggie Kampher, both from Sewende Laan informal settlement. In front are Ruwayda Curnow and Gaironesa Diedericks, members of Friendly Sands.

Strandfontein informal and formal dwelling residents are sceptical about the latest sand mining application to excavate 12-hectares of land, over two erven bordered by Spine Road, informal settlements, Baden Powell Drive and the local sports complex.

A delegation visited the MaccSand Holding Company’s Macassar site, to see first hand the implications of sand mining and speak to one of the directors, Ganief Darries, on Thursday March 3.

This follows a Plainsman meeting with Friendly Sands, a new community organisation, representing the interests of the Strandfontein community in pursuit of development.

They came together a few months ago, when businessman and resident Shahied Davids met with resident Gaironesa Diedericks, and former chairperson of the Strandfontein Ratepayers’ Association, who had previously vehemently opposed the excavation of the sand dunes and the possible spoiling of her view of the ocean (“Upset over sand mining plans”, Plainsman July 18).

Ms Diedericks has subsequently been converted to wanting the dunes to be flattened on condition that there would be development in her hometown of more than 40 years.

“I look around and I see my neighbours, their children who are sitting on the corners in drug stupors. There is no hope. They need employment. They need opportunities,” she said.

They then roped in Ricardo De Reuck, the director of the Cape Flats branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), and community worker Ruwayda Curnow, from Opperman’s Oord, who want to oversee and complete a fact-finding approach to inform decisions on whether to sand mine in Strandfontein.

They visited the Macassar site a few weeks ago to see first-hand a sand mine in operation.

On Thursday Sewende Laan informal residents Angie du Plessis and Maggie Kampher joined them and asked Mr Darries whether all measures would be put in place to protect their homes from dust and noise, and make sure there was no harm to their health, living environment and heritage.

Ms Kampher asked how they could benefit from the development and what recourse residents had in complaining if the mining permit conditions were not adhered to.

“As a community worker I have to raise the concerns of the our community,” she said.

Mr Darries said that the national department had various sectors to ensure the sand is mined under strict conditions.

He said each of the sectors had to be satisfied that all avenues had been tried to mitigate any conditions hampering health, safety, hygiene, environmental, heritage and security of the site and its neighbours.

“It is our policy to give back to the community and to rope them in when needed to share. Not to expose the environment, its botanical and ecological habitats.”

He said that the area was not environmentally sensitive and that is why the mining authorisation was granted.

The company applied two years ago, and was finally granted mining rights by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy earlier this year.

City of Cape Town requirements

Eddie Andrews, deputy mayor and mayoral committee member for spatial development and environment, said a pre-consultation was held on November 17 with a Mitchell’s Plain district official.

MaccSand then submitted a land use application for permission to sand mine erf 21668 and erf 1212, which was paid for about two months later.

In terms of the Municipal Planning By-Law and the provisions of the Development Management Scheme, rezoning is not required but a consent use application, including a time frame is needed.

The initial draft was submitted on November 8, however, after the pre-consultation, the applicant only finalised the completed submission on January 20 this year.

The application was circulated to internal City departments for comment for 30 days, which ended on February 28.

The district office is assessing all the comments to determine whether the applicant needs to respond to anything.

Mr Andrews said the most important factors would be the environmental considerations (rehabilitation), biodiversity (flora and fauna) and transport (access) considerations where an environmental management plan must be prepared and submitted for implementation on the site before and after sand mining.

“Obviously, the safety aspects and dust pollution must also be considered,” he said.

He said no advertising to the broader community is needed as yet because technical reports and responses needed be considered.

“Advertising to the surrounding community, ward councillor (and others) (sic) will take place in due course. A few record of decisions relating to impact assessments, especially the Environmental Impact Assessment in terms of National Environmental Management Act, are outstanding,“ said Mr Andrews.

Once the technical commenting period is complete, the comments are to be referred to the applicant for a response.

He said only once the applicant responds can a full assessment and recommendation be made on the land use consent application.

National Department of Mineral Resources and Energy specifications

Authorised activities on site include the mining operation to be an open cast mine for sand; an excavator and front-end loader will be used in its extraction; the sand will be removed and transported off-site; the front-end loader will also be used to establish the access road and haul road on site.

The sand mine area is divided into five blocks and the mine footprint will be restricted to a hectare block at any given time.

Topsoil of 30cm depth will be removed and stockpiled on the portion of the dune along the perimeter of the mine areas.

The topsoil stockpiles will serve as a temporary natural screen in addition to the retained dune portion.

According to the department’s notes, rehabilitation will take place on an ongoing basis as mining proceeds.

The topsoil will be replaced as mining advances to backfill the mined-out areas.

“Mining must take place during weekdays from Monday to Friday between 7am and 5pm normal working days,” read the permit.

Noise and dust management measures must be implemented and regularly monitored during all phases of mining activities.

Noise and dust generated during the mining must not exceed the appropriate rating level for the Strandfontein area and must comply with the Western Cape Noise Control Regulations Notice 200/2013.

An average of 15 trucks per hour must enter and leave the site. All trucks transporting sand must be covered with netting and shade cloth to prevent windblown sand into the streets and surrounding areas, read the document.

An environmental specialist concluded that the proposed activity would result in the loss of the existing biodiversity and ecosystem of the site in the medium term, but it can be mitigated in the form of rehabilitation whereby topsoil is removed and stockpiled.

The specialist further recommended that all geophytes and succulents should be searched and rescued prior to mining and later replanted as part of the rehabilitation process, under the supervision of a plant taxonomist.

The rehabilitation plan for the proposed sand mining activities included in the environmental management programme (EMP) will ensure that the land is returned to its desired land use standard.

The socio-economic benefits of the proposed sand mining outweigh the potential negative impacts on the environment if specialist and EMP recommendations are effectively implemented.

The report also speaks to the protection of all historical and prehistoric cultural resources, which must remain on site and no mining activities are allowed within 100 diameters from these resources.

Should anything be found, work must stop immediately and the South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA) and or the Western Cape Heritage Resource Agency informed.

The removal of any artefacts will be supervised by SAHRA.

Strandfontein Ratepayers and Residents’ Association has say

Strandfontein Ratepayers and Residents’ Association chairman Mario Oostendurp is against any sand mining in his backyard.

He submitted a petition of 3 000 signatures a few weeks ago and hosted an urgent meeting on Tuesday March 2.

“I am of the opinion that communities need to stand up against greedy developers coming into our communities and destroying our environment, our dunes and our livelihoods.

“We do not wish to inhibit progress, but feel that the approval of this proposal will only enable a short-term financial gain for a private company, with immediate maximum negative impact on the community,” he said.

Mr Oostendurp said he could not allow irresponsible development.

There has been no public participation, face-to-face or online communication with community.

He said the true impact of the operation was being down played, as environmental consultants assessing the operation were paid by the company.

“Strandfontein is home to two highly localised and threatened butterflies, the Barber’s Cape Flats Ranger (Kedestes barberae bunta) and the Kedestes lenis, the unique ranger, is a butterfly of the family Hesperiidae, which is on the brink of extinction.

“The Cape dwarf chameleon (Bradypodion pumilum) is a chameleon native to the South African province of the Western Cape, where it is restricted to the region around Cape Town,” said Mr Oostendurp.

He also mentioned that neighbouring sports fields, who have recently seen a huge infestation of snakes, gerbils and burrowing rodents, which continue to destroy playing surfaces.

“The potential sand mining next to the complex is going to remove a large portion of their natural habitat, which would force them to seek sanctuary on the sports complex, causing large-scale destruction to the fields and negatively affecting thousands of sports people form across Mitchell’s Plain as the local football association makes use of the complex for its league programmes and Western Province cricket its junior and seniors games,” he said.

Lastly Mr Oostendurp said the flattening of the area could and would potentially be an open invitation and an opportunity for land grabs with more illegal structures being erected.

MaccSand’s word

Mr Darries told the delegation last week that the company would respect the community’s decision whether to sand mine in Strandfontein.

He said they would not interfere with the process and that residents and interested parties were welcome to engage them with future programmes, business plans and developments within their community.