Major Court Win for Weskus

Written by
August 31, 2023
SAFE FOR NOW: The Olifants River estuary, the second most important estuary in SA, has received a major reprieve. Photo Eric Burden
In a major victory for the future of the pristine Olifants River Estuary and surrounding communities of the Cape West Coast, a crucial out-of-court agreement has been struck with mining company Trans Hex.

A last-minute order of the court just prior to an interdict being heard in the Cape Town High Court yesterday (Tuesday 28 August) has been made that represents a hard fought settlement between the company and Protect The West Coast (PTWC), with co-applicants the small scale fishing communities of the Olifants River and Doringbaai, as well as individuals Preston Goliath and Fabian Mohammed.

The agreement secures no-go areas around the Olifants River Estuary; along beaches north and south of the estuary mouth as well as out to sea; 11km of coastline from the Olifants River to Strandfontein, and an area along the beaches around De Toring, of approximately 1.8km, and Duiwegat of approximately 200m.

In addition, Trans Hex has agreed to submit an application within six months for an upgraded Environmental Management Programme (EMPr) within six months to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE). The original interdict was brought against them for gaining permission to mine for a further 30 years on the basis of an outdated EMPr from 2002 that ignored up-to-date environmental science, socioeconomic developments, and the value of the Olifants Estuary as a mainstay for livelihoods in the area.

“While this outcome is certainly a victory, it is just one small battle won in the ongoing war against inadequately regulated mining in the region. There is still much work to be done and the fight against unlawful mining on the West Coast is far from over,” said PTWC Managing Director Mike Schlebach.

THORNY ISSUE: Trans Hex mines beaches for diamonds near Doringbaai last year. This operation was stopped. Photo Specker

As part of the upgrade of the 21-year-old EMPr, Trans Hex must include certain specialist studies, consider cumulative impacts, include studies specifically considering small scale fishers, and must engage with local communities. Trans Hex is also required to separately assess the impacts and mitigation measures for vessel, shore-based and beach mining.  

The agreement reached is a major victory for PTWC in the ongoing battle to hold mining companies to account, and to mitigate against the persistent failures by the DMRE to ensure mining activities take place within the bounds of the law, in what is an already severely socio economically challenged part of the country with an incredibly sensitive and biodiverse environment that is relied upon by the communities for their livelihoods.

As a result of the agreement, the future of one of South Africa’s most biodiverse and fragile ecosystems, the fortunes of local fishermen, and tourism prospects has been secured.

PTWC hopes this result will serve as an example of what can be achieved by civil society when collective efforts are focused on issues, and act as a caution for other companies aiming to mine in the region, and elsewhere, without proper environmental assessments, public participation processes and updated EMPrs and other environmental authorisations.

As an order of the court, the agreement is binding. Trans Hex can be held accountable should they fail to adhere to what has been agreed.

PTWC MD Mike Schlebach was happy with the agreement, but said it was "just one small battle won in the ongoing war against inadequately regulated mining in the region" and that "this victory has shown us what is possible in our mission to protect the West Coast for its communities, and voiceless natural spaces.”

More info, or to donate to PTWC, visit their website

This victory has shown us what is possible in our mission to protect the West Coast