June 18, 2003
Posted to the web June 18, 2003
CONSERVATIONISTS are lobbying to put
an end to an Australian platinum mining operation near the Limpopo's
Nylsvley Nature Reserve,
boasts 20% of SA's flood plains and is home to one of the largest
diversities of bird s in southern Africa.
They argue that mining development
in the area would be the "death" of
Nylsvley, the jewel in the crown of one of Limpopo's 54 state-owned
reserves. It attracts about 10000 tourists a year.
Pan Palladium has
a prospecting permit for exploration in the Volspruit and Zoetveld
areas, which are situated along the Groot Nyl riverbed
and 70km flood plain on the 4000ha reserve of prime wetland and
Nyl flood plain is the largest inland plain of its type in SA,
extending from the Modimolle Mountain near Modimolle (formerly
in the south to Mokopane, about 60km north, and reaching 16000ha
when fully inundated.
The plain is unique to SA in that it
attracts more than 80000 waterbirds in the wet season. The nearest
of comparative size and
species diversity occur much further north in Botswana and Zambia.
It is therefore critical that we ensure the survival of this very
important resource," said Herman van Dijk of Friends of Nylsvley,
an affiliate of Birdlife SA and the Wildlife and Environmental Society
The Limpopo minerals and energy department,
in a letter to the conservationists, played down the threat of
exploration on the
flood plain. The department
said Pan Palladium's closest drilling activity was "within 100m" from
the flood plain and would not have a heavy impact on the Klein Nyl,
Groot Nyl, Olifantsspruit and Middelfonteinspruit catchment areas.
Van Dijk said if the Australian firm was granted full mining rights,
the survival of the 30year-old reserve and its diverse and
highly complex ecosystem would be threatened.
Pan Palladium has temporarily
stopped activities on the site, while an environmental impact assessment
report is conducted. However,
once the company begins full-scale exploration, Van Dijk said they
would drill into the water table, resulting in the Nyl River being
This will have serious consequences as the river runs through the
reserve and if the flood plains get destroyed, we can say goodbye
to any conservancy development and migrating birdlife ," Van
The reserve which lies between Modimolle
and Mokgoo'ong (formerly Naboomspruit) is renowned for its underlying
that support the plant and animal communities.
Known as the N1 for
about 430 species of birdlife, the reserve is the only place in
southern Africa where certain species can breed
without restriction. Its five bird hides make for spectacular viewing
during the wet season, when the reserve is transformed into a kingdom
park for migrating waterbirds.
It is also home to 70 species of mammals,
58 reptile species, 16 fish species and an estimated 10000 species
of insect, including
most of SA's dragonflies. It is also the only place in southern
Africa where two vegetation types, the wet savanna and the dry
is a breeding ground for about 60 roan antelope, a rare species
of game, which the reserve relies on for most of its income. The
reserve sells its roan to other game reserves in SA at R120000
piece. Van Dijk said mining would ruin this lucrative trade as
the roan bred along the flood plains and drew water from the Nyl
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and its subsidiary, the Green Trust,
is also opposed to the mining operation as they have invested R332000
over the past eight years to revamp and rehabilitate parts of the
Lesley Richardson of WWF said: "Any commercial development
will jeopardise the functioning of the ecosystem. Certainly, extracting
water from the rivers or catchment areas will have a huge impact.
We would like to see the environmental impact assessment report done
in a transparent way."
The reserve was listed as a Ramsar
site, an internationally important habitat for waterfowl, in July
Said van Dijk: "Being a
Ramsar site is serious. It has many implications, not only for the
waterbirds, but all the inhabitants
of the flood plain and the suppliers of water. It is one of the reasons
why we continue to lobby for the appropriate management of the reserve
to ensure the land is well cared for and that new unlawful factories
or mining operations don't suddenly appear."
A spokesman for
Pan Palladium was not available for comment yesterday.