New Tungsten Mine a threat to the Moutonshoek Protected Environment, and the Verlorenvlei Estuary

Bongani Minerals (Pty) Ltd submitted an application to mine tungsten and molybdenum within the Moutonshoek catchment region near Piketberg in the Western Cape. Tungsten and molybdenum are highly valuable refractory metals widely used in steel production to enhance hardness, strength, and in lamp filaments. These metals are considered strategically important by China and the European Union due to their various industrial applications.

The Moutonshoek Protected Environment, established under the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act of 2003, encompasses a region of integrated land-use where agricultural activities and biodiversity conservation coexist harmoniously. This protected site plays a crucial role in safeguarding the Krom Antonies River and its catchment, which serves as the primary tributary of the Verlorenvlei wetland system.

The Verlorenvlei Estuary, located downstream of the proposed mining project, is renowned for its rich biodiversity. It serves as a habitat for a wide range of aquatic and bird species, including endangered species like the African black oystercatcher and the endemic Verlorenvlei redfin. The estuary’s diverse ecosystems provide a unique environment that contributes to its ecological significance and the overall health of the surrounding area.

The proposed mining activities upstream of the Verlorenvlei Estuary pose a significant threat to this exceptional habitat. The Verlorenvlei, located within the G30 catchment, already faces substantial pressure from upstream agricultural practices and excessive water abstraction. The proposed Riviera Mining Project would exacerbate these challenges and have a severe, detrimental impact on the Verlorenvlei ecosystem and the valuable ecosystem services it provides.

The Draft Scoping Report, prepared by the Environmental Assessment Practitioner, Greenmined Environmental, was made available for public comment until July 3, 2023. The Biodiversity Law Centre is deeply concerned about the potential consequences of the proposed mine on the Verlorenvlei system. In their submitted comments on July 3, 2023, the Centre highlighted the stark contradiction between the proposed mining operation and the management objectives outlined in the Moutonshoek Protected Environment Management Plan, as well as South Africa’s obligations under the Global Biodiversity Framework. Furthermore, they emphasized that the project poses a substantial risk to the biodiversity of the Moutonshoek Protected Environment and the Verlorenvlei catchment, including the contamination of already strained groundwater resources. The project’s negative impacts would also extend to local jobs within the tourism and agricultural sectors.

Read our full comments on the Draft Scoping Report here:

Photo: Verlorenvlei after the rain. Felicity Strange – Friends of Verlorenvlei