Plans for the Fuleni coal mine on the border of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP) have been halted for the time being after Ibutho Coal’s mining licence application expired in January.

Environmental Law Specialist, Kirsten Youens, told Tourism Update that, as far as she was aware, no further mining application had been submitted by Ibutho Coal. Moreover, the environmental impact assessment Ibutho Coal had obtained for the area had also lapsed.

“Ibutho Coal will have to start again,” said Youens. She added, however, that the disadvantage was that the company would now be able to apply under the more recent EIA regulations, with the Department of Mineral Resources overseeing the process rather than the Department of Environmental Affairs.

In December last year, Ibutho Coal told Tourism Update that it would work with a specialist EIA team to address any concerns of having mining operations less than 100m from a National Park. The company said in a statement that it would undertake further consultation with any affected communities in the area as well as conduct additional studies before taking any further action.

However, Youens said there had been no consultation with the community or other affected parties to date.

Jacana Environmentals, the company that prepared the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) last year, mentioned that a number of additional specialist studies had been identified. The company said that Ibutho Coal was revisiting its mining plan/schedule and, only once this had been completed would further specialist work and EIA consultation be undertaken.

This comes after communities protested in April this year against the mining operations. In an open letter to Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, Sheila Berry, spokesperson for the iMfolozi Communities and Wilderness Alliance, said the majority of residents from the affected communities had made it clear that they would never be persuaded that the planned Fuleni coal mine was a good option for their land.

When asked for comment on the status of the project, Lizinda Dickson from Ibutho Coal, said the company would formulate an answer to Tourism Update’s questions in the next two weeks.