Ngwenya Lodge

2019 Mining Application

2019 Mining Application

Ngwenya Lodge, Marloth Park, Lionspruit and a number of properties near Komatipoort on the southern border of the Kruger National Park have recently come face-to-face with Manzolwandle Investments; a company, based in Witbank, Mpumalanga, applying for a mining right spanning approximately 18 000ha near Komatipoort. Here’s everything we know about the 2019 mining application:

The mining right application spans 18 000ha.
  • Manzolwandle Investments has applied for four applications for the above-mentioned area; namely, a mining permit, a mining right and two prospecting applications. These applications were submitted on the 19th July 2018 and accepted for consideration by the Department of Mineral Resources on the 12th September 2018. Manzolwandle Investments then hired Singo Consulting (Pty) Ltd as their Environmental Assessment Practitioners to conduct their evaluations of the proposed mine’s impact on the area and surrounding environment.
  • In terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, applicants of this nature are required to notify all property owners and all interested and affected parties of the development. While Singo Consulting did, in fact, host a meeting on the 28th May 2019, only a handful of parties were invited to attend this public meeting and many affected parties, such as Ngwenya Lodge, were not informed of the gathering or the proposed open cast mine in the area. Ngwenya, the management team and managing agent, VRS, were informed of the application through other Interested and Affected Parties, such as Cindy Benson, from the Marloth Park Ratepayers Association.
  • Singo Consulting, in the meantime, has submitted their Scoping Report, which lays out their estimates on capital investments and highlights the details of the proposed mining project. This is an initial report and further information and research is required to determine the viability of such a project. Business Maverick conducted further research and discovered that this initial report makes no mention of the mine being within a protected area. Singo recently, on the 08th July 2019, also submitted their Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Management Programme. According to IOL, this assessment states that 33 species will be affected by the coal mine and fails to mention the effect of the mine on the wetlands. Singo’s response is that mining will not take place within 100m of the wetlands, neglecting to state that any mining activity will still negatively impact the natural water resources in the area.
  • AfriForum has since started taking action to oppose the 2019 mining application near the Kruger National Park and Komatipoort. AfriForum’s lead on environmental affairs, Lambert de Klerk, submitted a letter to Manzolwandle Investments and Singo Consulting to outline the processes which have not been followed and to inform both parties that documentation concerning the proposed mine was not made public knowledge, as is necessary. Soon after, the EIA was published.
  • The Corridor Gazette, a local newspaper based in Mpumalanga, provided insight into a meeting held with the applicants, as well as Interested and Affected Parties on the 30th June 2019 at the Disaster Management Centre. Evidently, while certain studies were available to be viewed, the Environmental Impact Assessment had not been made public yet, even though a deadline for comment thereon was to be made before the 19th June, previously the 19th July. This raised yet another red flag regarding the 2019 mining application and due diligence not being followed for proper procedure. This gathering also brought to light that Singo and Manzolwandle have applied for water rights in the area, as well. This news further raises concern for the environment and communities in surrounding areas.
  • Shortly after the initial meeting between interested parties, Manzolwandle Investments and Singo Consulting, Corridor Gazette reported on the business chamber meeting held on the 04th of July, 2019, where over 300 interested parties gathered at Kambaku Golf Club to discuss the 2019 mining application. The Kruger Lowveld Chambers of Business and Tourism (KLCBT), as well as the Nkomanzi Local Tourism Organisation, co-hosted the meeting to outline the process of such an application and to inform meeting attendees of the impact the application would have on the area. The meeting also introduced Richard Spoor, an attorney and activist with a focus on South African human rights and environmental rights, who has agreed to assist Interested and Affected Parties.
  • Lowvelder, a second local newspaper in Mpumalanga, has also joined voices to shed light on the 2019 mining application, sharing their latest update on the 05th July 2019. Francois Rossouw, CEO of Saai, an agricultural interest group, has voiced concerns on the proposed mine from a farming point-of-view. In Lowvelders article, Rossouw is quoted to have said, “This one-off yield [of the mine], as well as damage to the water table, ecology and tourism, should be weighed up against the current agricultural activities in the area, which can yield a growing income of more than R100 000 per hectare per year after deductions for an indefinite time.” Rossouw had also approached an independent mining consultant who informed him that the water requirements of the mine would affect irrigation farmers up to 300km along the Crocodile River, while dust particles from the open cast mine will affect crops; an industry that brings R100 000 per hectare per year for the economy.
  • Cindy Benson has been at the head of the fight against the 2019 mining application and continues to work with property owners and Interested and Affected Parties in the area to oppose the application. In an interview with IOL, Cindy voiced everyone’s concern over the water usage of the mine and its impact on the communities, agriculture and environment within the Kruger National Park, “The most import threat is the impact the coal mine will have on our water. The mine aims to produce approximately 20 million tonnes of high-grade coal per year, which means that the mine will use approximately 11.62 billion litres of water per year. The Kwena dam is at 40% and the Crocodile River catchment and its tributaries are disastrously low.” Other concerns include how the disruption caused by mining activities and noise pollution will affect the density of wildlife in the area, how the opencast mine will destroy and scar the biome, what impact this application will have on tourism and the workforce in the area, as well as the extent to which it will diminish agricultural activity. Many have joined voices to Benson’s over how Manzolwandle’s estimate of 150 jobs at the mine could possibly outweigh the jobs created and sustained by a number of tourism and hospitality, farming and other properties in the area.
  • To date, the only statement made by either Manzolwandle Investments, or Singo Consulting, was to IOL by Raymond Zulu, a director of the company applying for the mining right,

“They are drunk. It’s an unwinnable case. We are following all the correct procedures. They’re going to waste their money for nothing. The only people objecting are the white people. Some are not even staying in Marloth Park. They are in Australia, England, Joburg and America. Where we are going to start mining is about 12km away from Marloth Park. The people who are supporting us are the black people. They are hungry and we have to develop their lives and their places in the right manner. The Kruger is far from the place we are going to mine. I cannot talk about someone who cares about animals and doesn’t care about human beings.”

27 JULY 2019, 12:45PM / SHEREE BEGA / IOL

The Kruger National Park, Ngwenya Lodge, Marloth Park and others hold a special place in the hearts of visitors, as they arrive, each year, to experience the wonders of the South African bush. The town of Komatipoort and surrounding communities are reliant on the rich tourism and agricultural draw of the area for work and sustainable living conditions. As we await further news on the 2019 mining application, we will continue to do the best we can to play our part in preserving this rich ecosystem through environmental conservation.

Click here for more information on how this 2019 mining application will affect the Kruger National Park and surrounds.
Click here if you wish to register as an Interested and Affected Party.
Follow Ngwenya Lodge on Facebook to stay up-to-date with developments on this mine.

Posted by Ngwenya Marketing in Environmental Conservation, 0 comments
Mining: What’s the Impact?

Mining: What’s the Impact?

Mining in South Africa is old news; the African continent rests on some of the largest mineral deposits in the world and these deposits are where the country’s wealth lies. Economic studies show that South Africa’s mining activity has seen an incline in recent years and mining for minerals, such as coal, currently makes up over 10% of the economy’s exports. Ngwenya holds environmental conservation dear and all the recent mining-related activity got us to thinking; mining: what’s the impact?

To delve deeper into the industry and particularly to focus on the Ngwenya Lodge surrounding area, we first need to look into coal and its formation. Coal is formed over thousands of years, starting first as decomposable plant material, which is buried by sediment. The initial process results in peat; with the absence of oxygen, plant material cannot decompose completely and thus turns to a fibrous, watery substance. If peat is subjected to further pressure by being layered beneath sediments, lignite forms. Lignite is similar to peat in that traces of plants remain. The third stage of coal formation results in bituminous coal or “soft coal”. This form of coal is used across South Africa as a source of heat energy but is considered lower grade coal. Under extreme pressure and high temperatures, bituminous coal transforms into anthracite or “hard coal”. This form of coal is a high-grade source of heat energy and large deposits of it can be found in the area surrounding Ngwenya Lodge and the Kruger National Park.

It is estimated that approximately 77% of all South Africa’s energy is generated through coal, while 28% of all coal produced is exported.

WHILE AN ARGUMENT CAN BE MADE FOR THE ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF COAL MINING, THE IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT, ESPECIALLY NEAR A HERITAGE SITE SUCH AS THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK, FAR OUTWEIGHS THE JUSTIFICATION FOR SUCH A MINE


THE IMPACT

1.    Disruption

The formation of a mine so close to the Kruger National Park and in close proximity to farmland and communities will drastically affect the quality of life from the start. Mining machinery and equipment creates noise pollution and has an impact on the roads: increasing traffic, placing risk to other motorists and deteriorating the roads commonly used by tourists and locals. This disruption will affect the Kruger, as well. Wildlife is affected by the noise and air pollution, which could result in diminished numbers of some species that are reliant on the environment, while tourism may see a decline which affects the Park’s ability to maintain standards. Many of these effects last throughout the operation of the mine.

2.    Trauma

As the mine continues to operate the effects deepen. The quality of the air will continue to diminish, as potentially hazardous particles from the mines become airborne and affect the health of human and wildlife populations, alike. Physical destruction to the land can deteriorate the plant life in the area, causing a reduction in the ecosystems which give support to a number of species and which increases the risk of soil erosion. These disruptions not only affect the Park but could cause a collapse in infrastructure as ground movements’ increase.  Mines impact water as well; leaching of heavy metals into groundwater can affect human and animal water-sources, including irrigation for crops and the Crocodile River. Siltation can also occur; a process whereby soil erosion caused by mines loosens sediment, which then travels across water sources and settles on riverbeds. This smothers the riverbed and drastically affects species in the River and the quality of the water source for the species dependant thereon.

A major concern for an area such as the southern boundary of the Kruger National Park is acid mine drainage (or AMD). AMD occurs when exposed rock outcrops from mining activity leach highly acidic sulphur into water sources over prolonged periods of time. This poisonous water contaminates rivers and dams and has detrimental effects on marine life, as well as species making use of the water source. AMD is easily recognisable as coppery or red water.

3.    Scars

Once mining operations cease and the company has extracted the last of the coal, life in the immediate area may never recover. Habitat loss, as a direct result of the destruction to land, affects various species and could critically endanger, or completely eradicate, smaller populations dependent on the ecosystem. Many species are hyper-sensitive to changing environments, which puts them at risk.

These effects only explore what could happen on the surface, should a mine be constructed near Ngwenya Lodge and the Kruger National Park. The extent of the damage could be far worse.

We know, Ngwenya Lodge holds a special place in the hearts of our visitors, as they arrive, each year, to experience the wonders of the South African bush and as we await further news on the current mining application, we will continue to do the best we can to play our part in preserving this rich ecosystem through environmental conservation.

Click here for more information on the current mining application for Tenbosch Farms.

Posted by Ngwenya Marketing in Environmental Conservation, 3 comments
Raka; Our Resident Crocodile

Raka; Our Resident Crocodile

The warm weather has touched the landscape across the Crocodile River and the cold-blooded reptilians slide onto the sandbanks from the cool water to bask in the sunlight. Like logs, the creatures lie almost lifeless, soaking up the rays of sunshine with beady-eyes seemingly staring blankly ahead. Raka; our resident crocodile, slides his huge body out of the water; he is the largest of the crocodiles on this stretch and dominates many of the smaller crocs in these waters.

On this particular morning one of our guests, Tommy Weys, captures some incredible photographs of Raka in his natural habitat. An unfortunate impala has wandered too close and has been snagged. A fully grown crocodile, like Raka, will consume 20% of his body mass in a single sitting. While his main diet subsists of fish, birds and smaller antelope, he is not impartial to establishing his dominance over the River by consuming smaller crocodiles as well.

Raka’s digestive system is a well-oiled machine; perfected through thousands of years of evolution. His jaw cannot move other than to clamp down or open up; he therefore swallows prey whole. The meal will reach his stomach, and be met by hydrochloric stomach acid, as well as small stones (that he swallows) which help him to grind the food; due to an inability to chew. What’s even more interesting about this process is that his blood plays a vital role. Crocodiles have a special valve in the heart muscle linked to an aorta leading directly to the stomach, which miss the lungs completely. The blood that travels along to the stomach is thus rich in carbon dioxide, a crucial component in releasing more acid into the stomach to disintegrate prey. The influx in gastric acid means that Raka can devour and digest his prey faster than any other animal and dissolve bones that have made it into his system.

On further inspection of this prehistoric creature paleo-biologists discovered that a crocodile’s bite force averages around 16 460 newton’s; 10 000 newton’s more than that of a lion or hyena. Interestingly though, the muscles to open the jaws are not nearly as strong, which is why conservationists recorded relocating crocs by simply holding their mouths shut.

This by no means diminishes a crocodiles dangerousness; Raka will stalk his prey from below the water’s surface and lash out quickly, clamping his strong jaws shut around his victim, before pulling it back into the water where it will drown. Once shut, his jaws act as a vice-grip and will be near impossible to open.

Raka may remain in the River whilst feasting on his prize, but this is to minimise his vulnerability to other crocodiles attempting to make a claim on his meal. Once he is satisfied, he drags his large body from the cool waters and basks in the sun to digest his food. The warm rays of the sun, and the special second aorta, work in conjunction to speed up digestion; without these tools Raka’s meal would putrefy in his stomach.

As he lies along the lazy Crocodile River, we begin to notice how he, and other crocodiles around him, seem to share the same vacant expression and wide-open mouth. This social behaviour is not at all random, and shares with us another glimpse into the marvellous evolution these creatures have experienced. We already know that crocodiles are cold-blooded, so their body temperature is directly proportional to that of their environment. Along the Crocodile River, temperatures can sky-rocket to over 40° Celcius and Raka, as well as his other scaly comrades, can overheat. Lying on the sandbanks with their mouths agape works similarly to that of a dog panting; the cool breeze ripples over the crocodile’s mouth and cools the blood flowing around its brain. Once thoroughly cooled, the crocodiles will return to the depths of the Crocodile River.

Each day we watch, eagerly, as crocodilians put on a show for the Lodge’s visitors along the meandering Crocodile River. Raka; our resident crocodile and fiercest mascot, makes regular appearances to amaze and instill a sense of wonder and awe in those lucky enough to behold him; a living, breathing dinosaur of the deep.

Posted by Ngwenya Marketing in Ngwenya Sightings, 0 comments
Into The Biome

Into The Biome

Ngwenya Lodge sits comfortably along the winding Crocodile River on the South-Eastern boundary of the Kruger National Park. Being located at prime river-frontage, a major water source for Kruger wildlife makes Ngwenya well-positioned for year-round game-viewing. However, exploring the Kruger National Park on a self-drive or guided tour make for some incredible sightings; even more so when we delve into the biome of the Park and use it to our advantage for spectacular wildlife finds.

The Kruger National Park is classified as a majority Savanna biome.  This biome is characterised by grass-dominant ground coverage and woody vegetation as its upper layer; it also makes up approximately a third of South Africa’s overall biome. The upper layer of woody plants and trees almost never dominates the ground cover; this is attributed to the annual rainfall being relatively low in the area, recorded by 15 rainfall stations throughout the Kruger daily with a mean of 500mm each year. The region experiences its rainy season during the summer months; December, January and February with earth-shattering thunderstorms which are a sight to behold and often studied by international and national students. Wild grasses and shrubs make up the majority of the ground cover and provide an ample grazing ground for a range of antelope, while Acacia trees can be spotted in clusters or alone, and provide an excellent food source for larger game such as giraffe and elephant.

The Kruger National Park can be broken down into eight overlapping ecosystems, all forming a part of the greater Savanna biome, with the Central Grasslands providing the best example of the Savanna. The Northern Sandlands, Mopaneveld and Lebombo ecosystems fall further away from Ngwenya Lodge, but all make for interesting and unique game-viewing drives, should visitors wish to travel further into the Park.

Closer to home however, lies a multitude of ecosystems, each overlapping the next and providing a home to varied species, these are the; Riverine Bush, Thorn Thickets to the East, South Western Foothills, Mixed Broadleaf Woodlands and the Savanna Grasslands heading North.

  • Riverine Bush areas populate the River edges and can thus be found looking from an Ngwenya Lodge chalet patio, or lookout point. The foliage has near year-round access to water, creating a dense cover for species in the area. Commonly found on the floodplains are; elephant, waterbuck, crocodile and occasionally big cats and other game during the drier seasons when water is scarce.
  • Thorn Thickets are located towards the east along the Crocodile and Sabie Rivers and are characterised by large Acacia trees. During the summer months this thicket provides excellent cover for game seeking to wait out the heat of the day, and giraffe can often be found grazing from their favoured food source; the Acacia tree.
  • South Western Foothills make up the area enveloping Pretoriuskop and Berg-en-Dal to the West of Ngwenya Lodge. This area receives the highest rainfall within the Kruger Park and features incredible granite outcrops perfect for looking out over the Lowveld for a refreshment stop.

Nkumbe Lookout Point, Lower Sabie

  • Mixed Broadleaf Woodlands cover Skukuza and surrounds moving west into the National Park. The Woodlands are characterised by a range of Bushwillow trees and provide an excellent opportunity for guests wanting to spot predators. Regular sightings of lion, leopard and hyena are reported in this region.
  • Savanna Grasslands start north of the Sabie River and are a typical example of the Savanna biome; large open spaces covered in wild grasses and the occasional cluster of Acacia trees mark the area. This ample grassy vegetation means that large herds of antelope can be sighted here; zebra, wildebeest and rooibok cover the plains. The area also attracts many predators and cheetah put their speed to good use on the grasslands.

The Kruger National Park offers a wide range of ecosystems to explore and even more species to be sighted; a treasure trove of wildlife experiences. Journey into the biome and discover all this South African landscape has to offer.

Posted by Ngwenya Marketing in Wildlife, 1 comment
A Tribute to Elephants

A Tribute to Elephants

If you have ever found yourself seated on the Restaurant Deck, on a private patio or at one of the game-viewing hides along the Crocodile River at Ngwenya Lodge, then you know that this is elephant country. Herds can often be seen grazing along the river bank and sometimes wander so close to our hides that you can see the colour of their eyes. So how then, could we possibly resist this tribute to elephants? Elephants are such magnificent creatures and Ngwenya visitors are often awe-struck by their incredibly humble presence; Ngwenya takes a closer look with a few unexpected and interesting facts about Loxodonta africana:

  • Anatomy

Loxodonta Africana, more commonly known as the African Bush Elephant, is recognised as the largest land animal in the world. When a bull wanders close to the Lodge, crossing the River and heading up the embankments, guests come up-close-and-personal with these sentient beings and start to notice a number of fascinating attributes. For one, elephants most distinguishing feature: their trunks, are made up of over 40 000 larger muscles, all working together to provide the elephant with a flexible, multi-purpose appendage. These muscles can then be broken down into 150 000 fascicles; tiny internal muscles which could be likened with spokes or villi. To put this into perspective, humans have approximately 750 muscles in their entire bodies.

The trunk consists of muscle groups, nerves, and connective tissue but no bone. The elephant’s skeleton starts at the tail and ends with the skull. It is most fascinating to discover, and no real surprise, that an elephant’s leg bones consist of mostly bone; the bone marrow is subsequently replaced with a spongy, denser bone material. This allows the skeletal structure of the elephant to carry the heavy weight of its muscular structure; bone marrow is lighter and would not provide the necessary support for the animal. An elephant’s red blood cell production thus occurs, not in its bone marrow as with humans, but predominantly in the pelvis.

  • Talents

An elephant’s anatomy lends itself to a range of “talents”. For example, elephants have been recorded using their trunks for a number of incredible tasks; elephants most commonly make use of the proboscides, small finger-like extensions on the tip of the trunk, to grip and snatch foliage, much like a human would use their fingers to pick objects up. The trunk is not only used for feeding, or drinking water, but has an innate ability to smell. An elephant’s olfactory system works through the millions of receptor cells found inside the trunk; the message is relayed to the olfactory cortex found in the ventral lateral brain. This ability means the elephant is even better than a bloodhound and can smell water kilometres away!

Further use of the trunk has been documented as elephants “snorkel” across rivers or bodies of water; the animal will hold its trunk above the water level and wade along the river bottom so that it may continue to breathe.

The trunk is not the only interesting talent an elephant possesses. An elephant’s tusks are incisor teeth which protrude from the skull and grow to lengths of 2 metres. Fun fact: elephants are known to favour one tusk over another, similarly to that of humans being left- or right-hand dominant. Tusks are used for a number of tasks including; stripping bark off trees as a food source for fibre and defending themselves against predators or competition

  • Epidermis

The average elephant’s total skin mass is 900 kilogrammes and can be an inch thick in certain areas. The upper dermis of an elephant is supple and not rough as it may seem; it folds and creases across the mammals body, retaining moisture and keeping the elephant cool. This wrinkling is no accident; researchers at the University of Geneva and Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics presented new findings which suggest that the creases in an elephant’s skin are purposefully created. The tiny crevices and cracks are interconnected and offer higher water retention for evaporative cooling, and can hold more mud, in an effort to dissuade insects from biting and irritating these incredible creatures, than non-wrinkly skin. It has also recently been uncovered that elephant skin is not the same density or thickness across the board, but rather thins out in certain areas or “hotspots” such as the inner leg or over their ears. These locations are used to assist in cooling their blood; elephants are believed to have a certain degree of control over pumping their blood throughout their body and will push blood through the blood vessels near the surface of these “hotspots” to cool down.

  • Extremities

One such “hotspot” is an elephant’s ear; the skin over their ears is approximately a 10th of an inch. But this isn’t the only incredible feature of their ears; elephants have extraordinary hearing, too! The average elephant’s hearing range is between 12 hertz (hz) and 12 000 hz, nearly double the range of a human. In conjunction with their hearing, elephants also make use of their feet to receive communications from elephants further away. Through various studies, scientists have found that elephants communicate at a low-frequency level, much lower than the human ear can pick up, and that their communication pathways can be received and sent to elephants in an area as large as 100 square kilometres.

A large part of this evolutionary advantage can be attributed to an elephant’s feet and trunk. An infrasonic message will be sent through a series of low rumbles and vibrations from one elephant to another. The message travels through the ground and is picked up by the receiving elephant’s feet and trunk tip. Scientists discovered that a combination of bone condition, nerve endings and sensory receptors convey the message from their feet to the ossicles in an elephant’s ear. Elephants use this mean of communication to convey messages of: stress, mating calls and as a “tracker” when herds are spread far apart while searching for food and water during a drought.

  • Dynasty

During such times as drought, when families of elephants are scattered across the landscape finding food and water sources, the Matriarch will lead her herd to locations she has previously visited as a young elephant, or calf, where she remembers there being water or ample vegetation. This is just one of the incredible ways elephants display their connection to one another, and to their lineage. Usually an elephant herd consists of the Matriarch, her daughters and their offspring. At a certain age, the males will leave the group and form a loosely knitted bachelor group of their own. Interestingly, it has been documented that these elephant herds will continue to communicate with one another and stay connected across various families. Elephants display a level of empathy and connection between one another which is rarely observed in the animal kingdom; caring for each other’s offspring, sharing special bonds transcending distance and herds, and mourning for elephant members which have passed on.

Elephants
are incredible and magnificent creatures and are “awe-inspiring” to behold. 
Posted by Ngwenya Marketing in Wildlife, 0 comments