Amatola Water was warned about dune mining

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DUNES DESTROYED: A Cannon Rocks resident blew the whistle on mining of sensitive dunes by Ndlambe Municipality and Amatola Water in 2014. Ndlambe said it was to clear a parking lot and the sand was being used in the bulk water project. Picture: JON GOETSCH
DUNES DESTROYED: A Cannon Rocks resident blew the whistle on mining of sensitive dunes by Ndlambe Municipality and Amatola Water in 2014. Ndlambe said it was to clear a parking lot and the sand was being used in the bulk water project. Picture: JON GOETSCH

TWO years ago, dunes at Cannon Rocks were illegally mined to provide bedding soil for the Amatola Water pipeline from Cannon Rocks to Alexandria.

TotT wrote about it at the time, after receiving an alert and photographs of earthmoving equipment at work on the beach from concerned resident Jon Goetsch. He also informed the Eastern Cape department of economic development and environmental affairs (Dedea).

Goetsch had observed the activity over more than a month, and estimated that trucks had removed about 36 to 48 tons a day between July 16 and August 27 2014.

At the time, Amatola Water refused to answer questions about the dune mining operation, and Ndlambe Municipality insisted it was merely removing sand covering a car park and putting it to good use as bedding soil for the pipeline.

However, Dedea’s manager: coastal zone management Sandiso Zide thanked Goetsch for “the photos that clearly show that there is indeed a transgression”. Zide also referred the matter to Green Scorpions director Div de Villiers, but nothing more came of it.

Background details of the dune mining operation came to light in documents recently provided to Talk of the Town by a source close to the Amatola Water project.

The removal of sand had already started months before Goetsch noticed and reported it. Already in March 2014, De Villiers sent an e-mail to Ndlambe’s environmental inspector Willem Nel and Amatola Water’s regional manager of operations Raymond Bukubukwana, expressing concern that the municipality had misrepresented the removal of the sand by saying it was further than 1 000m from the high water mark and had no impact.

De Villiers said based on the earlier communication, he had told Nel the activity would not require authorisation. In a separate memo, the municipality informed Amatola Water that De Villiers had “granted permission for Amatola Water to remove sea sand from the beaches of Cannon Rocks for… the purpose of compacting new water pipes between Cannon Rocks and Alexandria”.

But in his e-mail to Nel, De Villiers wrote: “Subsequent to our discussion, I received information from a complainant that sand is being removed from a road less than 200m from the high water mark in the Cannon Rocks area and affecting a dune system. This is a contravention in terms of NEMA [National Environmental Management Act] and the Integrated Coastal Management Act.”

He urged that “work must [cease] with immediate effect” and said corrective measures would be taken.

When De Villiers’ e-mail was circulated, Russell Yelseth of Amatola Water’s consulting engineers Aurecon, wrote: “It appears that the removal of the sand from the car park in Cannon Rocks is going to be a serious problem.”

TotT’s source, who asked to remain confidential, described it as a “public relations nightmare” and said the bedding sand should have come “from a commercial source authorised and approved by the engineer”.

He said it was a bad idea to use sea sand because of the corrosive effect it could have on the pipes, especially the joints.

 

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