On a remote stretch of South Africa's west coast, two major diamond-mining companies, Alexkor and West Coast Resources (WCR), have been using a controversial and potentially highly destructive form of shoreline mining. This apparent violation of environmental laws and regulations has exposed major shortcomings in South Africa's overarching mining legislation. By Micah Reddy for AMABHUNGANE.
There are wide-ranging concerns about the environmental impacts of "coffer dam mining" on the 330km Northern Cape coastline, where state-owned Alexkor and West Coast Resources - in which billionaire businessman Christo Wiese holds a significant stake - make up a duopoly.
Both mines have large-scale operations.
Coffer dam mining is not new to this coast, but expansion has been taking place since at least 2016, and the two mining companies appear to have ignored regulatory processes and mined the shore illegally.
According to a February 2017 report commissioned by Conservation South Africa: "it appears that this activity is illegal on several counts, primarily as a due and proper environmental assessment of the impacts of this process has never been engaged, nor have the implications for the marine environment been fully understood."
The mining method entails cordoning off large tracts of the shoreline with dam walls...