SPONSORED CONTENT

  SPONSORED CONTENT

This podcast series is made possible by JoJo - for water, for life

This podcast series is made possible by JoJo - for water, for life

Struggle Against Phosphate Mining in Cape West Coast

Nicola Viljoen describes the Langebaan Lagoon as the jewel of South Africa’s West Coast. It’s not hard to see why when we consider the beauty of the lagoon and the astonishing natural heritage it is host to. Nestled inside of the UNESCO recognised Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve, the lagoon and the towns around it boast a remarkable biodiversity. The reserve is located in the Cape floristic region – one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots – and the lagoon is a designated wetland of international importance supporting over 20000 birds of 250 species under the RAMSAR convention. The towns and settlements connected by the biosphere reserve are supported by tourism and small-scale farming but, for the last six years, the ecology of the lagoon and the way of life of these communities have been at the brink of a change they might never be able to come back from.

 

In 2014, a mine was awarded a license to stripe mine for phosphate on the edge of the West Coast Park. The mining site is believed to be situated on South Africa’s second richest reserve of phosphate rock – a key component of nutritional supplements, industrial chemicals and, most importantly, agricultural fertiliser. It also happens to be bang on top of the 10 million year old Elandsfontein aquifer – a complex underground water system spanning 30km which the Department of Water Affairs has classified as highly vulnerable and susceptible to anthropogenic disturbance and pollution.

 

It was the defence of this aquifer from the substantial ecological risks associated with strip mining for phosphorus which prompted Nicola, a resident and farmer of the area, into environmental activism. She has been leading the West Coast Environmental Association in this defence work as its chairperson – demanding that government and the mine act transparently in how they award mining licenses and place appropriate guarantees to protect the aquifer, the reserve and the communities that depend on them for their livelihoods from the long term impact mining activities will have on the unique and delicately balanced ecology of the area.

 

For Nicola, the battle isn’t a simple zero-sum game between the aesthetic beauty of the area and the much-needed jobs offered by the mine. It’s about our collective right to a healthy environment and natural heritage, protecting biodiversity and growing long-term and sustainable jobs which will knit people and communities together.

 

 

 

For Water For Life – The water podcast tells the extraordinary stories of ordinary people who have made it their life’s mission to preserve, purify and protect South Africa’s water resources. This podcast series is made possible by JoJo – for water, for life.