Transnet may have to alter expansion plans for the Saldanha Bay iron ore handling facility following strong objections from SANParks, local municipalities and residents. One of the most biodiverse areas on the west coast, the Ramsar-listed Langebaan Lagoon has for some time been threatened by the planned expansion of the iron ore terminal on the northern end of Saldanha Bay.Concerns over the terminal expansion plans resulted in the Ramsar Secretariat earlier this year suggesting that the lagoon be listed on the Montreaux Record – a list of ecologically compromised Ramsar sites.
As a result the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) requested a report from SANParks, who manage the lagoon contained within the West Coast National Park.
Asked to comment, park manager Xola Mkefe said the report was pending following Transnet’s willingness to reconsider some points raised by SANParks.
Chief among these was the planned development of a reverse osmosis plant to create fresh water needed to dampen iron ore dust.
The plant would produce 3,6 million litres of water per day, but would also create 4,4 million litres of concentrated brine which was to be pumped back into the bay – an ecologically threatening situation.
Mkefe said Transnet have agreed to consider piping the brine out to the open ocean or “back to land”.
They have also agreed to tighten up their oil spill contingency plans as shipping would increase substantially upon completion of the terminal expansion.
“We will surely know around November if the port has considered some of our suggestions,” said Mkefe.
* Reporting by Steve Kretzmann.