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South Africa: West Coast Phosphate Mine Stopped – for Now

Activists and state departments fear Elandsfontein mine could damage area

A new phosphate mine on the West Coast is being challenged by environmental activists and state departments who say the mine has been unlawfully established and fear it could damage the surrounding sensitive environment.

The Elandsfontein mine borders the West Coast National Park and is about 3km from where the fossilised remains of the Saldanha Man were found.

The mining company, previously known as Elandsfontein Exploration and Mining and now known as Kropz, managed to secure a mining licence in January 2015 and a water use licence in April 2017, despite strong opposition, including court action. Patrice Motsepe’s firm, African Rainbow Capital, owns a 25% share in the Elandsfontein mine. Kropz says the mine is situated on the second largest deposit of phosphate in South Africa and will create about 300 permanent jobs.

Kropz has now halted the commissioning of the mine for an “extended period” due, among other things, to “a long delay in the issuing of the mine’s water use licence, which has consequently impacted on the mine’s ability to access suitable ore required to achieve target rock phosphate concentrate grade”.

“The situation has been further aggravated by technical issues identified during commissioning, as well as the fact that current world rock phosphate prices have reached a ten-year low, decreasing by almost 30% since Elandsfontein was awarded its mining right,” said the mine in a statement.

The West Coast Environmental Protection Association has been fiercely opposed to the mine since its conception. The association is currently involved in a court application to review the granting of the mining right and is appealing against the granting of the water use licence in the Water Tribunal.