Mtunzini and EXXARO Mining

Apr 7, 2011

MISSION  06 of  2011

Name of Mission: Mtunzini and EXXARO Mining      
Date of Mission: 7 April 2011 
Aircraft used: Foxbat (Brett) and Aquilla (Devon)        
Pilot: Brett and Devon Hill
Beneficiary: Tekweni TV – Sandra Herrington

Objective of the Flight

To acquire aerial photos of Mtunzini, showing the site of the intended Exxaro dune mine and the degradation wrought by Exxaro at its Hillendale mine.

Beneficiary’s story of the mission      By Sandra Herrington

Mtunzini is a small town located along the KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast and its Zulu name means “a place in the shade”.  Generations of residents here have sought to preserve its unique sense of place, setting an example to other communities in their fight against alien plant invasion and pioneering the trend to use indigenous plants in private gardens and open spaces.   So successful have their efforts been that, in 1995, the entire town was declared a conservancy.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Umlalazi Reserve is located here, as is the Twinstreams Nature Reserve, a legacy left by legendary conservationist Ian Garland who was responsible for the planting of 80,000 trees both at Twinstreams and in the town itself.   It is a town renowned for its scenic setting and rich bird life.  But – looming on the horizon is the prospect of dune mining which threatens to sandwich this ecotourism location between a 40 km stretch of open cast strip mining, from close to the Mtunzini Plaza in the south, to Empangeni in the North.

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What is particularly alarming is that the method of mining will leave behind 4km of unsightly 30 metre high residue or slimes dams, as well as the mining company’s inability to show that it will be able to restore the dunes to their original state of wetlands, sugarcane and wattle plantations.  Their exhausted Hillendale mine, 20 kms north of the town, is a virtual dustbowl with very little sign of any rehabilitation taking place.

With the help of Bateleurs pilot, Brett Hill and his son,, Devon, our cameraman was able to show 50/50 viewers the path of the intended mining and the degraded state of the Hillendale mine, along with the scenic wetlands and the picturesque, treed town of Mtunzini.

The aerials were a great help in showing the expansiveness of the operation and what is at stake for the town and its immediate surrounds.

Pilot’s story of the mission      By Brett Hill

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It was a rainy Friday not quite IMC when I took off in my Foxbat for Mtunzini from Ballito. I stopped at Groutville where I was joined by my son Devon flying his Aquilla.  We landed at a private airstrip at Mtunzini where I removed the passenger door for the cameraman, Dylan, who had a really BIG camera.

Devon picked up our tour guide  and we took off together.  Dylan said the visibility, through the open door, was very good.  First it was a trip up the river and then around the town of Mtunzini, so we could see how close the mining will be to the town. We then flew south to FairBreeze, then across the N2 and up to where the slime dams are likely to be.

We then flew north to Hillendale to film the mine and record its not-so-good job of rehabilitating the area.  From Richards Bay we flew to Empangeni, another of the Exxaro mining sites, then back to the sea and south to Mtunzini.  We circled the town, flew back to the strip and after offloading our cameraman and tour guide, Devon and I returned to Ballito.

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