Sudwala Caves

Reopening Mine Endangers Sudwala Caves

July 12, 2011 / South Africa, Africa

The reopening of a gold mine on Mankele mountain in South Africa has environmentalists scrambling to try and protect the popular Sudwala Caves, widely regarded as the oldest known caves in the world.

The 240 million year old caves were used for shelter in prehistoric times, as ammunition storage, as a refuge by the Swazis and more frequently as a concert venue. In 1906, the cave’s bat guano was excavated and sold as fertilizer.

Local mining company, Omaruru Minerals has plans to mine the mountain that houses the caves to extract 1.2 million tons of ore over the 10 years.

Houtbosloop Environmental Action Link (HEAL) a local community based group is concerned that blasting at the mine could destroy the caves, or lead to accidents, not to mention further pollution of the Houtbosloop River which flows through the site, and other rivers downstream.

Mining could also threaten several endangered species in the area, such as the rare bats that inhabit the caves. In fact, the government’s biodiversity management plan had rated the Sudwala area as “highly significant” and “irreplaceable”.

Omaruru Minerals has already started processing old mine dumps on the site.

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