File image: Reuters

The Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA) is “cautiously optimistic” about steps taken by the department of mineral resources to secure the Pondoland area, the conservation authority said on Thursday.

ECPTA welcomed the withdrawal of the Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources’ (TEMR) mining rights at Xolobeni, on the Pondoland Coast by Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu.

“The Pondoland is an area of high global conservation importance and the proposed mining was threatening to derail conservation and ecotourism efforts in the region,” interim CEO Sybert Liebenberg said in a statement.

“The Xolobeni mining saga has caused a lot of insecurity and division amongst communities and other stakeholders, which has made it extremely difficult to move forward with conservation and ecotourism efforts.”

According to the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) on Tuesday Shabangu revoked the rights to mine In the Kwanyana Block at Xolobeni, on the Wild Coast.

In a letter, Shabangu informed LRC attorney Sarah Sephton that she was “satisfied” that TEMR had taken “all reasonable steps” to consult with the affected parties.

Shabangu said the decision to grant the mining right was taken at a stage when several environmental issues were still outstanding. She had given TEMR 90 days in which to re-apply.

The regional manager had been directed to submit a recommendation to Shabangu after re-evaluating the information submitted by TEMR for final determination.

Liebenberg said it was unfortunate that the “backdoor” was still open for TEMR to be granted a mining right.

“However, we are optimistic that the minister will stick to her decision.

“ECPTA will be stepping up their efforts to secure the conservation status of the area through the Wild Coast Project,” she said.

In September 2008, the LRC's Grahamstown office filed an appeal with Shabangu on behalf of the Amadiba Crisis Committee asking her to suspend a decision to award a mining right to TEMR. - Sapa