MOSCOW, July 17 (RIA Novosti) – Mining company Ibutho Coal has applied to build a colliery just 40 meters from the South African Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, where the majority of the remaining white rhinos in the world live, raising concerns about the possible extinction of the animals, the Guardian reported Thursday.
“We are concerned the wild animals like rhinos and elephants will go extinct. We will be the last to know about these animals and the next generation will know nothing,” said Zulu community leader Bhekukwenzelwa Ndimande as cited by the Guardian.
Opponents of the construction argue that the colliery will pollute the air and rivers, displace local communities and kill the rhinos.
The anxiety is shared by experts and ecologists. In his interview with the Guardian, Dr. Ian Player argued that “there is no doubt in my mind that if that mine went ahead it would destroy the wilderness.”
Local communities say that Ibutho Coal failed to notify the local tribal authority about its construction plans. However, the company’s management argues that it was too early to disclose the information about the prospective mining to the media and claims the animals will be safe.
“I confirm that Ibutho Coal is committed to responsible mining practices, with due sensitivity to the considerations for the environment as well as the community on or near the footprint of prospective mining activity,” Ibutho Coal Spokesperson Megan Hunter said as cited by The Guardian.
There are now an estimated of 20,000 white rhinos left in the wild. However, more than 500 rhinos are slaughtered every year. Poachers hunt the animals to sell their horns on the black market, where their value is higher than the equivalent weight of gold.