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Protecting our environment: What’s happening on the West Coast?

I am sure that many of us, at least once in our lifetimes, have seen videos or images of our beautiful Western Coast of South Africa. Some of us may have even had the privilege of visiting the coast in person. For those who need a reminder, the West Coast has long, rolling beaches with oceans brimming with incredible marine life; coastal flora housing many endangered species; and heritage sites with long-lost fossils that tell the story of humankind. These areas are important to our history as well as our environment. And as of right now, the West Coast is being threatened by an international mining company.

The MSR Tormin Mine, situated on the West Coast of South Africa, has approved its expansion of a beach-mining project across ten of our beaches and nearby inland areas. This means that large areas are cordoned off and crammed with trucks that destroy the dune-structures. It also means and that unhealthy pollutants have been spilling over into the ocean, killing and damaging the biodiversity of the coastal area. 

Of course, MSR adhered to environmental codes and law in developing this mining project, however, the damage mitigation measures they agreed to, as well as the solutions that were put in place, are not being monitored nor obeyed. At the time that MSR applied for this contract, they were not in compliance with their existing authorized projects. This made the locals skeptical that MSR would comply with the West Coast project. People also voiced concerns that the beach may never be fully rehabilitated after the dunes have been spoiled considering the loss of vegetation and ecology. 

The unfortunate truth is that most South African organizations do not place any importance on supervising rules and mitigation measures once the project has started. Not only are these mitigation measures unmonitored, but often, the mitigation tactics and objectives are not realistic for the project, and therefore are not implemented. MSR said it will cease mining as soon as they find a fossil, but how will their employees know what is a fossil and what is not? Academics study for several years to understand the difference, so how can a person with no archeological background be able to tell when mining must cease? 

I understand that mining needs to take place, and that this project has indeed provided people with much needed jobs. However, there should have been an alternative to the location that was chosen. Perhaps an area more inland, further away from the beach hotspot considered a major avifauna zone, for nesting and feeding. Similarly, the surf in the area produces some of the best waves in South Africa, which are currently inaccessible and damaging to tourism. Lastly, there is also a high chance of this area being a fossil and ancient artifact heritage zone, which will now be destroyed. 

To see images of what is currently happening in the West Coast click here.

To sign a petition against the degradation of our beaches, click here.

The unfortunate truth is that there is not much that we can do from afar. Environmental activists have been protesting in the area, and have put legal pressures on the mining company. However, what we can do is create awareness and stand with the locals in their fight to get their beaches back. It is up to South Africans to draw the line at where external, international companies can exploit our resources and then leave us with the aftermath. Please share this article and sign the petition.

Stay safe and keep fighting,

Ocean-lover, adventurer, writer. I enjoy reading and drinking coffee. I am passionate about my studies and empowering womxn. In my free time I work as a medic on the road and I teach self-defence to young girls in underprivileged areas through a NPO called FightBackSA.
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