Environmental management of the marine diamond mining industry in South Africa and Namibia, although very much in its infancy, has made major progress. A considerable volume of baseline information, albeit at a fairly coarse scale, has been collected and is available for use in the management of the system. Most of the major biophysical impacts of the mining activities on the environment have been addressed and, wherever feasible, appropriate mitigation measures have been implemented. The total area of the marine environment affected per annum by the diamond mining industry as a whole remains relatively small relative to what is available. Thus, whilst some of the impacts of mining may appear very severe in terms of the local environment, these must be placed into perspective on a larger geographical scale. In terms of the biophysical environment, several issues still require attention, with cumulative impacts of mining coupled with those of other users, as well as selected single species studies being the most pressing.
Perhaps the most significant step toward an integrated approach to the management of the environment is the establishment of fora as a means of fostering communication, education and securing funding. In Namibia, the Lüderitz Forum was established to tackle issues affecting all users of the marine environment and Lüderitz town. The Forum comprises representatives of local and national government (e.g. Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources), and the fishing and mining industry. A liaison committee is soon to be established for the West Coast region in the South Africa on which various industries and other coastal users will be represented. Another positive initiative has been the formation of the South African and Namibian Marine Diamond Mining Associations. The former association has recently adopted a coordinated approach to environmental management through the development of a Generic Environmental Management Programme. A consolidated environmental baseline report on the environment of the South African west coast B, C and D concession areas was compiled in late 1997, and is to be followed shortly by a baseline report for the A concession areas and a generic EMPR for all four zones. Such initiatives must be commended.
In Angola, however, marine diamond mining is very much still in its infancy. Few, if any, serious initiatives have been undertaken towards sustainable exploitation of the mineral resources in this country. While it is good to think that much of the experience gained and many of the lessons learned in South Africa and Namibia will put this country in good stead for the future, several major stumbling blocks remain. Decades of civil war and continued political instability have stifled the development of local expertise and prevented access by foreign scientists. Consequently, there is little information available with regard to basic knowledge of biological and ecological functioning of systems in this country. Much of the country lies within subtropical and tropical areas and most of the information gathered regarding the consequences of mining in temperate ecosystems of South Africa and Namibia will be of little value. In this regard, desktop approaches will be all but meaningless, necessitating more costly field-based approaches in order to establish meaningful baselines on which comprehensive impact assessments can be based.
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9. People Consulted
Sue Lane: Sue Lane & Associates
Lionel Philips, Alexkor, Alexander Bay
Louis Luke, DMNM Human Resources Manager, Kleinsee