South Africa: Mordor At the Gates - the Ploy to Strip-Mine Selati Game Reserve

Lion (file photo).

In August 2020, out of the blue, the owners of the 28,000-hectare Selati Game Reserve received word that a company called Tiara Mining had plans to excavate a series of open-cast pits on their land. The mining application was at an advanced stage, it seemed, which was strange -- no one from Tiara Mining had ever set foot on the conservancy. And so began a battle that would unearth a litany of contradictions.

Between the towns of Gravelotte and Phalaborwa in Limpopo Province, on an outcrop of low granite hills, grows a species of African cycad that is to be found nowhere else on the planet. The plant, listed under CITES Appendix 1 -- code for "most endangered," which means that 183 countries have agreed to afford it the highest level of protection -- is itemised officially as Encephalartos dyerianus, but is known colloquially as the Lillie Cycad. On the regulated market, as evidence of the extinction threat, a juvenile plant will set you back around R210,000.

If the environmental impact assessment (EIA) is anything to go by, the fact that these hills are located in the Selati Game Reserve appears to have escaped the directors of Tiara Mining --...

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