Fresh fears about Mtunzini mining

Residents of the conservancy village of Mtunzini have raised fresh concerns about Exxaro’s intended partnership with pigment company Tronox.

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Residents of the conservancy village of Mtunzini and surrounding areas on the KZN North Coast have raised fresh concerns about South African-based mining group Exxaro’s intended partnership with US-based pigment company Tronox.

The proposed deal will see the exchange of 74% of Exxaro’s mineral sands operations – including the proposed Fairbreeze Mine near Mtunzini – into the control of the new Australian holding company, New Tronox. This will establish Exxaro as the largest single shareholder within New Tronox.

“Tronox is the ‘spin-off’ company of Kerr-McGee, a company that has been linked to radio-active waste and chemical pollution across the US over the past 70 years,” said Barbara Chedzey, chairperson of the Mtunzini Conservancy.

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“Tronox inherited billions of dollars in costs to clean up the environmental mess that Kerr-McGee left behind. “However, after recently emerging from bankruptcy courts on the 12 February 2011, Tronox has the acquisition of Exxaro’s Mineral Sands Operations firmly in its sights.”

Exxaro corporate communications manager Hilton Atkinson confirmed that Tronox had inherited onerous environmental remediation and litigation costs when it was spun off from Kerr-McGee in 2006. However, he said Tronox had successfully emerged from its bankruptcy proceedings.

With mining expected to start a mere 100m south of the Mtunzini village boundary and residents’ homes, villagers are more troubled than ever. “It is now clear why there has been an attempt to rush through the authorisations for this high risk, high impact mine [Fairbreeze],” said Chedzey.

“It will leave a legacy of destruction across sensitive habitats and potentially deprive many thousands of rural citizens of their constitutional right to a reliable water supply.

“Whether it be Exxaro or New Tronox who seek to mine adjacent to our conservancy town, all we ask is for the proper environmental assessments to be carried out before the project begins. We want alternative, less water-greedy mining methods to be investigated and permanent impacts on sensitive wetlands and the Umlalazi Nature Reserve with its critically endangered North Coast Dune Forest to be avoided.” – Robyn Joubert