Undermining the hard earned, yet tenuous, wins in protracted battles against proposed titanium mining and toll road construction this coastal region is now being destroyed for far less socio-economic gain in order to meet domestic demands for building sand.
Illegal dune raiders are ravaging the stunning dune fields along the Wild Coast, turning them into mined-out wastelands and destroying fragile coastal ecosystems for quick profit. In the Eastern Cape building sand is in high demand, creating a gap in the market for shameless opportunists who are profiting from the free resources being plundered. Sand mining is a lucrative, albeit criminal, business that feeds the rising demand in this developing region and further inland. Journalists investigations have revealed that the unlawfully mined sand is being used to construct government schools, RDP houses and private homes.
In August 2014 Deputy Director of Environmental Affairs, Jaap Pienaar, told the Daily Dispatch that widespread illegal dune stripping was causing massive damage to the Wild Coast, and if allowed to continue unchecked, would have negative long-term consequences for the region.
From an environmental perspective the illegal dune raiding is having disastrous effects within the Coastal Conservation Area that runs along the shores of the Wild Coast. According to a Daily Dispatch report sand mines the size of five football fields are being carved out of the earth inside the protected 1km coastal zone.
The damage being done to sensitive coastal and estuarine environments is irreparable and the biodiversity lost - irreplaceable - particularly in the absence of any rehabilitation measures. To make matters worse, the impacts of illicit mining in the 1km buffer zone, which is officially designated as a protected area, are not being managed, limited or monitored.
the mines are destroying hundreds of acres of natural flora, causing massive soil erosion and degradation of roads by heavily laden trucks. If not checked, this could lead to the loss of thousands of tons of fertile soil being washed away, landslides and slumps becoming more common as hillsides are made unstable, and the silting of rivers.
In September 2013, the Draft Environmental Management Plan for the Wild Coast, released by the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT), already acknowledged the gravity of the situation, reporting that the over 200 sand mines were starting to have devastating negative environmental impacts and that some sites were in environmental terms totally unacceptable. This draft plan by the DEDEAT stated that some of the existing sand-mining sites must be closed and proposed that other strategically located sites be legalized and managed properly.
A concerned resident explains that the miners and drivers frequently get drunk and disorderly, shouting at guests and locals, speeding and driving recklessly, and so endangering pedestrians using the roads as they go about their daily lives, as well as visitors heading to the beach. There have already been instances of pedestrians being knocked down and seriously injured, while numerous animals have been killed, hitting subsistence farmers hard.
has a huge impact on tourism, as not only does it destroy the untouched beauty of the Wild Coast and create noise pollution in the whole area, but most of the truck drivers and sand loaders create major disturbance in the area.
Furthermore, the daily stream of heavy trucks is worsening the condition of already poor roads, as well as fast damaging re-graveled rural roads. The deteriorating road conditions affect locals, as well as having a negative impact on tourism, making destinations harder to reach and increasing travel times, which limits access to intrepid visitors with lots of time and hardy 4x4 vehicles.
Locals have to endure the noise, the dust and the pollution caused by the succession of large trucks, along with the presence of dangerous and intimidating drivers, but tourists looking for some peace and quiet in untouched nature, are likely to go elsewhere. As the natural beauty and tranquility of the region are permanently demolished and the infrastructure is ruined, so the income-generating potential of the Wild Coast as a tourist destination disappears.
Tourism is currently the main source of income for many of the Wild Coast villages, so the collapse of the tourism industry would result in an economic crisis, unless alternatives solutions are provided soon. This means that with the inevitable decline in tourism development, communities will lose the long-term economic benefits and be left instead with a scarred coastline and a host of unsolvable environmental problems!
The underdeveloped Wild Coast villages are joining in on the free-for-all dune raids that are taking place along the entire coastline, for meagre profits. Poor communities are trading in their livelihood security, for as little as R150 per tuck load of beach sand and a few temporary jobs, in return for silent consent. Ironically, these historically disadvantaged communities are getting ripped-off in return for cooperation, as the truckloads of sand that they fetch R150 for, are then retailing at between R1200 and R2600 per 8-ton load.
The groups of local men earning a minimum weekly wage by shovelling sand, receive much-needed income, but without skills development, employment benefits, medical and legal protection or long-term job security. The business of illegal mining whilst lucrative for those selling sand, is unsustainable and as such will only provide a few local people with insecure employment for as long as the non-renewable resources last and government fails to take action.
Although the main demand driving the strip mining is coming from businesses local contractors, building supply stores in the region and big construction companies, some of the illegally mined sand is also being used to build local houses in the villages where the concrete benefits of democracy have been painfully slow to materialize. Every area along the coastline has an illegal mine, some of which were started to build local houses, whilst others were started to build the tourism establishments themselves.
The informal deal between sand mining businesses and the rural villages is giving rise to conflict in some of the impoverished communities involved, as interests collide and corruption undermines the short-lived benefits intended for entire villages that tow-the-line. The payoffs are ending up in the hands of a few community representatives who often pocket the cash, adding to the mounting tensions existing between people who take a different stand on the mining activities. Clashes between the men earning weekly wages by digging up sand and the livestock owners and farmers, are especially volatile.
What happens is certain people are told to collect the money and after a period of time these collectors are asked by the community to bring forward the money collected. Every time this happens the money has been spent and the collector has nothing to show for it. The community then forces that person to pay the outstanding amount through livestock and this livestock will generally be slaughtered and they will throw a huge party. There is not one project or beneficial input towards growth in the community from the sand money.
In the Port St Johns area, villagers are less concerned with the consequences of the mining, the general consensus being that it provides income. Wild Coast resident, Dries Van der Merwe, says that the more affluent residents are the ones in conflict with mining supporters and workers, resisting the illegal developments and calling for government intervention. For poorer community members, the reality is that when your daily survival is of primary concern, nature takes a backseat.
Resolving the dune-raiding problem is not as simple as stopping a few unscrupulous sand miners from degrading the local environment. Its a complex crisis embedded in the unique historical context of this rugged region. This exceptional stretch of coastline falls within the former Transkei area, created under the Apartheid Regime. The remote 250km long coastal zone is scattered with rural villages, holiday homes and tourist destinations, the best-known tourism spots being Coffee Bay and Port St Johns. Known as the Xhosa heartland, this is one of the poorest parts of the country, and incidentally also Mandelas birthplace.
In the past, the lack of infrastructure and investment in the former Transkei inadvertently sheltered the scenic coast from the negative effects of rampant development, keeping the place wild. Unfortunately, this lack of development has simultaneously resulted in a myriad of socio-economic and political challenges specific to the province.
Much of the land along the Wild Coast is communally owned and managed, making regulation problematic. The shared landownership arrangement complicates matters, in terms of awarding licences for sand mining activities. In November 2013 the DEDEAT Draft Environmental Management Plan stated,
it has thus far been impossible for the Department of Mineral Resources to legalize sites, as it invariably proves to be impossible to get agreement on who the holder of a mining license should be, and to who and how benefits from sale of sand should accrue.
Late last year, African Budget Safaris CEO, Terry Murphy, paid a surprise visit to one of the sand mining sites near the small seaside village of Coffee Bay a popular spot with free-spirited local and international travellers. Caught red-handed the men that were mining at the beach, fled from the scene when he arrived, fearing that Murphy was an authority. Illegal mining is not new to the area by the time Murphy visited, the nearby Mdumbi River Mouth was already completely wrecked, leaving behind an eyesore.
The situation is especially complicated, because of the multiple parties involved some with conflicting interests, and even government officials may have hidden agendas. Inaction to date may suggest that government officials are complicit.Thus far local, regional and national governmental departments, including the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and the DEDEAT, and the South African Police (SAP) have not stopped the extensive illegal sand mining that is causing massive destruction. John says that attempts to stop the mining nearby have thus far lead to nothing, but dead ends and frustration. According to John, everyone just turns a blind eye we are not sure who is passing the buck, but nothing is being done.
The Green Scorpions took some action in 2014, staging a blitz that resulted in one arrest in March and another two in August. The case against Zayedwa Ndabeni is still pending, but given the difficulty of allocating responsibility; two of the men arrested were released.
A contact in the DEDEAT says that some fines were issued and a few trucks were also temporarily confiscated, but actively involved businessman, Van der Merwe, says that no miners have been fined. Van der Merwe concurs that trucks were temporarily confiscated, but then released, including that of Ndabeni, which was released by the Port St Johns station commander.
Reports vary as to the reason for the crackdown some say it was staged in response to community complaints; others suggest the two-month Daily Dispatch investigation, exposing the widespread illegal exploitation, was the catalyst. Regardless, by September last year government and police officials had backed off again, with the Minister of the DEDEAT, Edna Molewa, stating that the department had received complaints from local communities that depend on the sand mining for income.
In December last year authority was officially shifted from the DEDEAT to the DMR, although most of the illegal mining cases contravene laws under both departments simultaneously. As the licensing and monitoring body of mining activities, the DMR is responsible for prosecuting offenders. Much of the illegal mining is taking place in the 1000m Coastal Conservation Area, which falls under the DEDEAT mandate. According to Van der Merwe, in most cases the miners should be charged for illegal mining and damage to the exclusion zone, as well as for trespassing and damage to private property, in the Port St Johns area.
Despite the repeated calls for intervention from several concerned residents (affluent and underprivileged), and local tourism ventures, the dune raiding is still going ahead today, unimpeded by government bodies and law enforcement officials. In Port St Johns, residents have had some limited success that saw the closure of two mining sites - sites that simply moved operations elsewhere on the coast.
One of the major challenges for interested and affected parties trying to stop the prohibited mining is simply trying to get hold of someone with both the authority and the willingness to take action and protect the human and natural capital being exploited one heaped truckload at a time.
The response I personally managed to get from the DMR in February 2015, confirmed that Mine Health and Safety together with Mineral Regulation in the Eastern Cape, are in the process of dealing with this problem in the Port St Johns area. DMR actions to deal with the problem include discussions with the municipality, police, complainants and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), in January 2015. DMR media liaison says that the DMR in the Eastern Cape intends to hold an information workshop with all of the interested and affected parties again only in Port St Johns - in order to discuss this sand mining situation. I was further informed that it is impossible for Mine Health and Safety to enforce compliance with the law as the illegal mining is prohibited under a different act.
In reply to my question of what has already been done in the past, the DMR confirmed that a suspect had been arrested for widespread illegal sand mining in the area (presumably Port St Johns), but that the outcome of the court case is still outstanding. The DMR only has regional offices in Mthatha and still needs to establish a policing and enforcement arm with the rights to arrest guilty parties. The DMR in the Eastern Cape is at this stage recruiting staff. As an active campaigner, Van der Merwe, says that the DMR has not taken any steps to implement the laws being broken and control mining along the Wild Coast. To the contrary, he says of the DMR, they seem rather noncommittal in actions or suggestions against this problem.
In the meantime,the severe and irreparable damage continues as the government officials fail to take action. Yes, the local communities urgently need changes that promise to help alleviate poverty here, but at what environmental cost?
One of the last truly untouched places left in South Africa, the Wild Coast, is being destroyed in return for short-term tradeoffs and profits reaped by a handful of opportunistic law-breakers as tourism ventures battle to be heard and the government reticently responds with excuses and half-hearted actions.
create a balance between the development of an underdeveloped, high poverty region and the protection of an environment which is nationally and internationally recognized as being of exceptional value and importance.
Probably one of the most workable solutions proffered to date, is to legalise some of the mining sites to meet the need for sand to build local houses. Legalising some mining sites offers a compromise with the potential to meet the growing demands of local development, whilst operating within the laws intended to protect the environment and attendant tourism industry.
Landia is an adventure-loving South African, who likes to step off the beaten track and escape the crowds in nature. She's a seasoned safari writer and traveller with an honours degree in Communications and another in Sustainable Development.
Sand Dredgersare the powerful equipment to excavate andpump underwater sand, slurry or gravel to specified location. As the leading sand dredger designer, manufacturer and exporter, TAIAN OCEAN Pump Co., Ltd (OCEAN Pump) had been dedicated in supplying sand dredging machines to worldwide customers for over 20 years.We have more than 30 talented sand pumping experts and 15,000 square meters factory.Product innovation and customer satisfaction are our continuous commitment to all our partners. Our innovative, high quality products includeportable dredge, cutter suction dredger, jet suction dredger, submersible dredger,etc, which arewidely used inriver silt cleaning, sand production and mining project.We had beenprovided professional sand dredger solutions and services to over 60 countries.Hope to be your partner.
Portable dredge, also called small sand suction dredger, is the kind of cost effective and compact sand dredging machine which is widely used for excavating and pumping sand or mud from the bottom of the water body. Small portable dredger features robust dismantle structure, high pumping efficiency, cost saving, easy to transport and operate. More information available..
Submersible dredger, also called submersible slurry pump dredger, specializes in slurry dredging and delivering. It is powered by abrasion resistant high chromium alloy submersible slurry pump. Our Submersible dredger features high efficiency, flexible and cost saving which can perform economical dredging in all water depth conditions. More information available
Jet suction dredger is equipped with high pressure water jet pump toimpact the underwater sand and the water pump tosuck the splashed sand from the suction hose to the designated location through the pipeline.It is widely used dredging equipment for rivers, lakes and ponds dredging, land reclamation, port cleaning and sand pumping, etc. More information available
Cutter suction dredger is suitable for heavy duty operations with dismountable structure. OCEAN Pump offers custom cutter suction dredger with powerful dredge pumps and side wire winches to ensure efficient dredging operations. It is widely used for river silt cleaning, delisting lakes and ponds, mining project, cleaning ports and sand production. More information available
OCEAN Pump had been specializing in delivering turn key sand dredgers and sand pumps to worldwide customers. We have strong ability in custom sand dredgers designing and manufacturing. In recent years, we have been keeping on investing in technological innovation, integrated sand dredgers modular customization. The safe and efficient operation of most kinds of our sand dredgers can be satisfied with our customized solutions by our professional staffs and solid technologies.
OCEAN Pump Brand sand dredges are widely used forriver channel sand excavation, sand extraction in sand mine, harbor dredging, reclaim land from the sea, slag cleaning transportation, harbor dredging, salt mining, etc.We had provided effective sand dredgers and solutions to over 60 countries. Our customers are from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Liberia, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Myanmar, Nigeria, Vanuatu, Uganda, Cameroon and Cte dIvoire, etc. The following are some of them.
Taian OCEAN Pump Co., Ltd. is the professional sand dredger solutions designer, manufacturer and exporter with 20 years industrial experiences. We have 30 talented experts and 15,000 square meters factory. Our dredging equipment had been exported to over 60 countries mainly from Southern America, Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia.
Wiseman Mnguni squats in front of his lion, scraping its teeth with a plastic spoon. His leopard, buffalo, and rhinoceros face the promenade. It is early evening in Durban, a balmy port city on South Africas east coast, and the beachfront precinct, known as the Golden Mile, is packed. Teenagers on vacation take selfies outside the fast food stands as joggers thud by and surfers rinse off under outdoor beach showers. Lifeguards patrol the shore, blasting their whistles at errant swimmers. Hotel guests cross the road and sink their toes into the sand.
Mnguni, 33, keeps his head down amid the bustle, etching his lions snout into a snarl. For 12 years, he has sculpted animals and other elaborate sand structures on the beach, surviving on donations from passersby. His daily income ranges from US $4 to $8 on weekdays and reaches $15 on weekends, cash he splits with his assistant, a languid youth named Patrick Dlomo. He supplements these meager earnings by selling some of the cheapest advertising space in the city, smoothing large mounds into display boards and neatly lettering sentences with darker grains of sand. This July, he has adverts for a local auto body shop and a debt management firm, charging each company $20 for the month. When the wind blows, or if people damage the sculptures, he touches them up. Its no money, says Mnguni, who supports his father, wife, and young son with his craft. But its better than nothing. If we leave this, we have no job.
Mnguni and Dlomo are among a ragtag group of sand artists who operate on Durbans prized central beaches, subsisting at the fringes of a local tourism economy worth more than $400-million annually. At least three rival groups have stands along the six-kilometer brick walkway that winds the length of the coastal strip. Their sculptures repeat similar motifscastles, big game animals, armchairs, carsand are rendered with astonishing finesse. This is a gift, says Mnguni, who counts himself among the first sand artists in Durban. Not just anybody can do it. You need a good brain.
Several artists make their living as sand sculptors along Durbans famous Golden Mile. As illegal sand mining starves the beach of sand, the artists raw materials may soon be in short supply. Photo by Charlie Shoemaker
You also need sand, which appears abundant but is diminishing due to unrestrained illegal mining in Durbans rivers, the principal source of fresh sediment at the coast. Sand and gravel (collectively termed aggregates) are essential for the construction industry, used mainly for building roads and producing concrete. This has led to severe shortages worldwide. According to the United Nations, global aggregate use exceeds 40 billion tonnes per year, twice the volume of sediment carried by all the worlds rivers. As more and more sand gets cemented into the built environment, beaches like Durbans are being stripped bare by the sea.
Mining has already cut coastal sand supply by as much as 70 percent in the municipality of Ethekwini, which includes Durban, according to a study by South Africas Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)repeating a pattern that is playing out around the world as cities spread. Each year, miners dig up more than 400,000 cubic meters of sand from Durbans rivers, enough to fill 160 Olympic swimming pools. This sand would normally be deposited on beaches and help offset coastal erosion. At current mining rates, Durbans beaches are predicted to contract, on average, by more than a meter each year.
This would have dire implications for the Golden Mile, one of South Africas busiest tourist destinations and an uncommonly integrated public space in a country still burdened by the legacy of apartheid. On this stretch of land reserved for whites less than 30 years ago, black skateboarders glide past sunburned bathers while Muslim mothers in burqas spread picnics on large blankets. Upstream, illegal mining threatens freshwater ecosystems and communities that depend on them. Yet sand remains cheap in monetary terms, not taking into account the far-reaching impacts of its overuse.
The CSIR estimates that Durbans sandy beaches are worth over $15-million per kilometer per year, including the tourism and recreational revenue they generate as well as ecosystem services like erosion control. Estuaries where illegal mining takes place add further value by preserving biodiversity, recycling nutrients, and attenuating floods. There is a trade off between miningwhich provides necessary construction material but irreversibly depletes sedimentand preserving these critical systems. The price of sand would increase tenfold if it included this full range of costs, the CSIR says.
Until such time as the price of sand rises, economic pressures sustain illegal digging, from the need for cheap building materials to high unemployment in rural areas, where miners risk injury for low pay and leave behind degraded, hazardous landscapes. There are direct links between these illegal operations and the construction industry, embedding the trade deep in mainstream development.
This trajectory leads to a future where rocks emerge as the beach dissipates, hardening the Golden Mile into a less accessible coast. Durban has already seen what this could look like. A violent surge in March 2007 wrought more than $76-million in damages along the beachfront, demolishing buildings and displacing some five million tonnes of sand.
Yet the resource seems infinite as the sculptors fill their buckets and children dash through the shallows. The sand, weathered from sedimentary rock, is yellow brown, with black swashes of titanium ore farther up the beach. It clings to the skin and gathers in folds of clothing, sifting into vehicles and houses and hotel rooms. You cant use it up. Theres too much, says Mnguni, dusting his hands. This is a pervasive belief: grains of sand typically represent abundance, not scarcity. He accepts a coin from a teenaged couple and poses for a photo while the ocean abrades the shore.
Thirty kilometers inland, on a wide bend in the Umgeni River, a mechanical excavator thrusts its claw into the water and hoists a dripping load of mud. A barefoot youth of 13 named Smiso sits at the controls for pocket money of $8 per day. He pivots the machine and dumps the mud to dry beside the channel, where three large trucks are waiting to fill up. Rutted dirt tracks crisscross the embankment, a barren sandy expanse once tangled with indigenous shrubs.
Illicit mines have multiplied down the length of the Umgeni, a major river system that curls 225 kilometers through gray-green hills and meets the sea just north of the Golden Mile. The catchment supports five large dams and its name has been adopted by the provincial water utility, Umgeni Water. It has also become synonymous with a coarse, gritty builders sand that sells in most local hardware stores. (Do you live near a river that got Umgeni Sand? I require truckloads, reads one recent online classifieds post.) Ecologically, the river is considered one of Ethekwinis most vulnerable, threatened by habitat loss, pollution, and the spread of invasive species. Operating in a vacuum of unemployment, which exceeds 40 percent in the province, illegal mining has amplified these stresses, impairing the Umgenis critical services while posing direct threats to the communities settled on its banks.
The excavator leaks a trail of hydraulic oil as Smiso maneuvers it back onto the riverbank. The ground shakes as he lumbers toward the trucks and begins loading them. Two barefoot menlike him residents of the nearby village, a clutch of thatched homes farther up the slopesclamber up to flatten the heaps with shovels, the mechanical arm of the excavator swinging centimeters above their heads. Dirt and diesel smoke fill the air. The chug of the engines is deafening. As soon as they finish, the trucks depart, hauling the riverbed away.
Sitting on a bucket in the noonday heat, a young woman with braids and gold-tipped teeth watches the men work, writing sums in a neat ledger. The mine belongs to her older brother, a man called Mbambo; she acts as his site manager, recording sales and collecting payment. Her book shows that 25 trucks purchased sand the previous day, representing a total yield of more than 75 tonnes. It wasnt very busy, she says. Often we sell more.
Officials say Mbambo runs a second, larger illegal mine several kilometers upstream. He has no overheads besides hiring excavators ($270 per day) and buying diesel, with negligible labor costs. Each truckload of sand sells for $20 to $30. His profits from each site comfortably exceed $3,000 per month. Though he has been warned several times to stop operating, Mbambo continues digging up rivers, knowing that he is unlikely to be punished. Like in many other developing countries, sand mining enforcement is lax in South Africa, with few consequences for breaking the law.
To comply with national mining legislation, legally operating sand miners must apply for permits from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), submit environmental management plans, and pay deposits for rehabilitation. Mines larger than 1.5 hectares must commission environmental impact assessments and prepare social and labor plans, including provisions for skills development, severance packages, and equity targets. Separately, miners are supposed to seek formal permission from environmental and land use authorities, although in practice these requirements are often flouted. Illegal miners act with impunity, says one official, requesting to remain anonymous.
Stewart Green, a former Department of Environmental Affairs employee who wrote a masters thesis on sand mining in 2012, argues that this is largely due to poor cooperation between different state agencies, with a particular lack of effort from DMR. There is also a shortage of compliance officers, meaning that illegal sand miners are seldom investigated or charged. The ease with which sand can be sold makes policing the trade even more difficult. Illicit mining of other valuable mineralsgold, diamonds, chromiumis worth over $500-million annually in South Africa, but these products require elaborate criminal networks to penetrate legal markets. Sand, by comparison, often travels directly from rivers to construction sites.
One of the drivers loading at Mbambos mine, a man named Jabulani, is delivering to a rural housing scheme 30 kilometers away. He drives for several hours, inching up potholed dirt tracks in low gear before merging with an arterial road. The truck is in bad repair and moves slowly, arriving late in the afternoon. Set on a steep hill, the site is crowded with teams of workers laying pipes and digging foundations; the new walls, erected to address chronic housing shortages, hold untold tonnes of sand.
Most contractors dont want to know where the stuff comes from. They just take the cheapest option, says Doug Burden from the Duzi-Umngeni Conservation Trust (DUCT). The group was formed by a group of paddlers to combat degradation along the route of Africas largest canoe marathon, which follows the Umgeni and one of its largest tributaries, the Msunduzi. Wed stand, beers in hand, on the deck at the clubhouse, bitching about the state of the river, Burden says. Then someone suggested getting involved.
Seeking to disrupt flows of ill-gotten aggregate, DUCT has developed proposals for sustainable mining schemes, approaching construction firms for support. We encouraged them to source sand extracted from the headwaters of dams, where sediment constantly accumulates, says Burden. That way, the illegal miners would have fewer people to sell to. It would hit them in the pocket. But we couldnt get the main players on board. At the end of the day, the sector is still driven by money and greed.
With little accountability in construction supply chains, illegally mined sand can vanish into all manner of legitimate projects. The Ethekwini municipality, tasked with preventing environmental damage due to sand mining, has in the past subcontracted illicit suppliers for repairs to its own offices. Its a huge irony, says one official. Were busy fighting these guys and then we see their trucks pulling up outside. Burden attributes a dramatic illegal mining surge in 2008 to the construction of Moses Mabhida Stadium, a 2010 FIFA World Cup venue that absorbed more than 245,000 tonnes of concrete.
That figure is small when compared to the amount of concrete produced during South Africas construction boom of the 2000s, when the sector expanded by an average 10 percent annuallymore than twice the GDP growth ratebefore the global financial crisis of 2008. At its peak in 2007, the industry consumed more than 90 million tonnes of gravel and sand: enough to fill a line of 10-meter trucks, squashed nose to tail, stretching six times around the equator.
Yet illicit miners have been targeting Durbans river valleys since long before the construction sector ignited. They move onward as they deplete sediment, leaving abandoned pits in their wake. These pits have no fences and can plunge deeper than four meters into the riverbanks. In the summer rainy season, from October to March, they fill with river water, forming murky pools. It was in one such pool on the Umgeni that Sibangani Zondi, 14, went swimming on January 25, 1996, during the first week of the school year. He jumped in with his friends after class and sunk quickly, drowning less than 200 meters from the school gate.
The mine bosses showed no remorse, says Sibanganis mother, Joyce, standing beside his grave at her home in Esikhelekehleni, an impoverished rural settlement high above the Umgeni River. Sibangani was her eldest child; he would have turned 35 this year. They refused to contribute to his funeral. They said that children must stay away from the mines, that they cant do anything to stop them.
Court documents from an illegal sand mining case in 2013 show that Durban police had received reports of approximately 11 children drowning in unsecured pits by 2010. These deaths have had little effect on the trade. To this day, trucks eke uphill not far from Sibanganis grave, shredding a narrow access road not built for heavy freight. Mud dribbles onto the tarmac, smearing the ascending lane dull brown. The trucks return empty, racing downhill to the Sikelekehleni, a smaller tributary of the Umgeni that has been illegally mined for more than 15 years. Boulders rise from beds of invasive reeds, with empty furrows collecting stagnant water, in the five-kilometer scar running up its banks.
One evening, as dusk falls, an excavator scrapes a final load from the channel and cuts its engine. The stream has been replaced by a pool of oily quicksand. Rocks tossed from the embankment provoke no ripples in the dense sludge. An old man guarding the site says cattle often fall in and get trapped. People dont like this mine. It creates too many problems. So they come here at night and damage the machines, he says. I feel the samebut I need money, so I took the job.
Similar pressures have driven hundreds of villagers to join the sand trade, though working conditions are often dangerous. During apartheid, the South African government created homelands for black ethnic groups, reserving 87 percent of the land for ownership by whites. The effects of this dispossession are still widely visible, with high levels of poverty in tribal areas. Today, a third of the Ethekwini municipality is governed by traditional Zulu authorities, a system that has produced several loopholes. For example, miners have requested, and in some cases paid for, permission to dig on tribal land, even though traditional authorities do not have the power to override national mining and environmental laws.
This leaves miners vulnerable to accidents, injuries, and sudden dismissalall without the regulatory safeguards of a formal industry. In July 2001, Jabulani Miya was shoveling sand onto a portable conveyor belt when his jacket got trapped in the machine, mangling his right arm. Doctors later amputated the limb above the elbow. Miyas boss refused to employ him or pay any compensation when he got out of hospital five months later. He said I was useless, says Miya, who had been digging on the Sikelekehleni River for almost 10 years.
His home, a single-room mud structure, looks down the valley toward the site of his injury. Dust clouds rise as the trucks come and go. Miya, 46, has been unable to find work since losing his arm and survives on a state disability grant of around $115 per month. His mother lived with him until passing away this May; her unmarked grave lies a few meters from the house. I can do my own laundry and cook pap [maize porridge], Miya says, but I cant chop food. I cant do what most people can.
His right shoulder is withered from disuse, giving a slight tilt to his broad frame. The damaged arm hangs at his side, wrapped in a fabric dressing. An older cousin named Nicholas helps him now, sleeping beside him at night on a thin mat. He was very strong; he loved sports and physical work, Nicholas says. He hates being like this. Sometimes he just cries. When he starts talking about what happened, he cant finish what hes saying.
Spurred on by the relentless expansion of cities, our hunger for sand has harmed people and ecosystems around the world. (Violent sand mafias in India, for example, have murdered police officers, activists, and a reporter to maintain control of an industry worth billions annually.) With sand and gravel accounting for up to 85 percent by weight of all material mined on Earth, humans now consume more aggregate than any other resource besides water and air. Grains of desert sand are too fine and rounded to adhere to cement, leaving rivers and beaches as the main source for producing concrete.
Behind these direct human costs of sand mining, more subtle losses are taking place. Rivers turned cloudy with sediment no longer support the same biological communities, and invasive plants establish on denuded banks. Floods rip through valleys more fiercely, scraping away precious topsoil. The value of a river is most evident when it is gone.
On South Africas east coast, the Umgeni drains into the ocean after cutting through crowded townships and an industrial zone at the edge of the city. It passes at least four active mines, and countless others that have been abandoned, between its confluence with the Sikelekehleni River and the coast. Anglers congregate at the river mouth after dark, casting lines by flashlight into waters starved of sediment. Four kilometers down the beach, huddled along the promenade, the artists tend to their sculptures as the mist creeps in.
Wiseman Mngunis wife, Mpume, sits next to him as he tamps down loose sections and carves fresh patterns in the sand. She accompanies him to the beach some days to carry buckets and collect tips, traveling an hour by taxi in each direction. The wind tugs at her scarf as she watches the beggars outside the restaurants and the brightly lit hotels. Her husband barely looks up, pressing his palms against the damp sediment. Tomorrow his sculptures must be immaculate, ready for the returning crowds.
Kimon de Greef is a freelance journalist from South Africa, currently based in New York City, New York. He has written for the New York Times, National Geographic, and The Guardian, and is the author of a book on abalone poaching.
Charlie Shoemaker is an award-winning documentary photographer covering Africa. Charlies work has been published in the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Le Mondes M magazine, Der Spiegel, and many more. When not working on stories, Charlie can be found exploring life underwater in the ocean around Cape Town, South Africa. Charlie was named one of Magnum Photos 30 under 30 in 2014.
Cite this Article: Kimon de Greef Charlie Shoemaker Quick Sand, Dirty Money, Hakai Magazine, Dec 5, 2017, accessed July 10th, 2021, https://www.hakaimagazine.com/features/quick-sand-dirty-money/.
JXSC Mining works on offering services for the mines and mineral processing plants, escorting efficient and safe processing performance in the global mineral resources industry with our reliable mining equipment and innovative solutions. From its tough beginning, the business that started in 1985 went to win the trust both home and board, with mineral processing machines sold to over 100 countries and regions( such as USA, Canada, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Chile, Congo, South Africa). Visit customer success cases to see what changes will our help of experience and technical expertise bring. May our experience in the various minerals like gold, silver, diamond, copper, tin, coltan, iron, chrome, titanium, etc. do you a favor in the increasing profit and reducing risks.
Overview The beneficiation processing of molybdenum ore is mainly performed by flotation, and the recovered molybdenum mineral is molybdenite(MoS2). Sometimes in order to improve the quality of molybdenum concentrate and remove impurities, the concentrated molybdenite would be subjected to a further step of chemical beneficiation processing. Introduction of molybdenite Molybedenites chemical composition with a high Read more
Due to the outbeark of Coronavirus, China have to stopped its Economy to tackle Coronavirus. Now the World Suffers. The virtual shutdown of one of the worlds biggest economies since last months is hurting business around the globe, from multinational companies to street vendor and tour guides. also, as well as the mining industry. Nowaday, Read more
The mining and metals industry is recovering from the most challenging period in decades. Market fluctuations and declining commodity prices have become a new normal. In this case, cutting costs, automating, and improving operational efficiency are critical. At the same time, industry-specific issues related to regulation, geopolitical risks, legal restrictions on the use of natural Read more
Introduction Minerals are mostly substances formed naturally in the Earth. They have a definite chemical composition and structure. Overall there are over 3000 minerals we knowns nowadays, and some are rare and precious such as gold and diamond(actually diamonds are likely the most common gem in nature), while others are more ordinary, such as quartz. Read more
What is a crusher? A crusher is a machine that is designed to reduce large rocks into smaller rocks, gravel, or rock dust. Crushers may be used to reduce the size of materials, or change the form of waste materials so they can be more easily disposed of or recycled, or to reduce the size Read more
Description Amphibolite is a dark, heavy, metamorphic rock composed mostly of the mineral amphibole. Amphibolites have very little to no quartz. Amphibole refers not to a single mineral, but a group of minerals. Most belong to the monoclinic crystal system, but some belong to the orthorhombic crystal system. They are silicate minerals containing SiO4 molecules. Read more
Mining Equipment Manufacturers, Our Main Products: Gold Trommel, Gold Wash Plant, Dense Media Separation System, CIP, CIL, Ball Mill, Trommel Scrubber, Shaker Table, Jig Concentrator, Spiral Separator, Slurry Pump, Trommel Screen.Get in Touch with Mechanic