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West Coast Diamond Mining: Eleventh-Hour Settlement Safeguards Biodiversity

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

In a last-minute settlement that was at the brink of long, expensive litigation, a West Coast diamond mining company, Trans Hex Operations, reached an agreement with local small-scale fishing communities and environmental advocates, thus putting an end to an impending high court legal battle. In a victorious move for environmentalists and fisheries, the settlement was made official this week within the Western Cape high court.

The settlement validates the protection of crucial conservation sites on the West Coast, particularly the Olifants River estuary and numerous small pockets exhibiting significant biodiversity. These areas, now safeguarded under the agreement, will be exempt from future diamond mining operations by Trans Hex Operations, the primary defendant in the case.

The new agreement also stipulates the mining company's future operations to align with updated environmental management programmes (EMPs). Special attention is to be given to the distinct interests of Doringbaai and Olifants River small-scale fishing communities, who were applicants in the case.

However, the agreement dismissed the application for an interdict suspending diamond mining operations, which underlines that the contentious awarding of 30-year extensions to mining rights sans public participation or notification remains unquestioned.

Non-profit organization Protect The West Coast and two local small-scale fishing groups heralded the settlement as securing the preservation of one of South Africa's most biodiverse and vulnerable ecosystems, coupled with the prosperity of local fishers, and growth potential for tourism.

While this settlement marks a pivotal win for regulated mining along the West Coast, the organization warns the fight against illegal and inadequately supervised mining continues, calling this a "small battle won in the ongoing war."

Trans Hex Group's CEO Marco Wentzel perceived the settlement as serving their operations favourably, as their mining operations continue uninterrupted maintaining their mining rights in good standing.

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