In a letter to The Herald titled: Fast-track manganese ore facility relocation and published on 20 December 2017, reader Richard Donaldson wrote:
We have been waiting for many years for the manganese ore berth and storage facility to move from our beautiful beachfront.
Every few years new dates are set, only for us to be disappointed by yet another deadline being missed.
In truth, keeping the manganese ore dump, reclaimers and ship-loading terminal in its current location within the Port Elizabeth harbour has dire consequences for residents living in the direct vicinity of the harbour, as well as businesses and recreational clubs situated within the harbour.
As a concerned resident who lives in South End, being an active member of one of the recreational clubs situated within the port, I have noticed a huge increase in ore dust pollution in and around the port.
Manganese ore dust is highly toxic to marine life and people.
Prolonged exposure can cause manganism that has effects very similar to Parkinson’s and motor neuron disease.
It also contributes to and worsens health issues such as asthma, and allergies such sinusitis and other respiratory issues. Our homes in South End and surrounding areas are directly affected when the easterly winds blow.
Walls are covered in brown dust, with curtains and carpets left dirty after each event.
It is very clear that manganese handling regulations are not adequately followed at the Port Elizabeth ore berth, and we often see huge plumes of ore dust rising from the conveyors and ship loaders while they are loading ships. It is clear that they are not following correct wetting and dampening procedures, especially when prevailing easterly winds are blowing.
It could be that the wetting or dampening of the ore has been limited due to the additional weight of damp ore that adds to purchasing and transport costs to the suppliers.
The severe damage to sailing yachts and power boats in the harbour has caused many yachts and boats to relocate to other ports.
The manganese dust causes staining of very expensive sails and glass fibre gel coats, and chemical reaction with stainless steel fittings.
The far-reaching consequences are the negative publicity being placed on world-wide sailing and yachting forums by crews and families sailing on visiting international yachts who declared our port as the dirtiest that they had ever seen, with most vowing never to return again.
Businesses, and especially the Pedsac and Yacht Club restaurants and facilities, fight a never-ending battle in having to keep the buildings, tables and benches clean for patrons, for hygienic reasons and to prevent clothing from being ruined.
Nowhere else in the world will a similar operation be allowed to take place in the middle of a city.
The resulting health issues caused by manganese ore dust are enormous and a huge contributor to a wide range of health issues.
It is a disgrace that this eyesore and health hazard has been allowed to continue to operate in its present location.
It has been almost two decades since the initial plans were mooted to relocate the ore terminal to the then planned Port of Coega.
There are obviously many factors at work that have delayed the project, with cost-related matters, as well as bureaucracy and red tape hampering the relocation and development of the new terminal and storage site the most likely causes of the ongoing delays.
This should, however, no longer be tolerated, and Transnet, the National Port Authority and their venture partners should spearhead the fast-tracking of the long overdue relocation of this menacing eyesore.
On behalf of affected residents and port users.
EDITOR: As an affected port user for many years and avid yachtsman we also need to consider the potential that the manganese ore is denying our city. I recently attended the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Cape Town where an independent study concluded that the economic benefit of hosting the event was in the region of R500 Million and, in addition, the event generated 35 000 bed nights for accommodation providers.
The setup on six precincts within the VA Waterfront was very impressive and world class befitting the event.
IF we ever get the chance to host such an event (we have been requested TWICE now to consider submitting a bid) then the manganese ore facility will more than likely have to shut down for the time that the Volvo Ocean Race is in Port Elizabeth – representing a large potential loss of turnover for the Port over a period of 5 weeks or so.
The equation is simple – Transnet, as a public benefit state owned organisation, will NOT swap a direct potential turnover loss of around R35 Million in exchange for a potential economic benefit of R500 Million plus 35 000 bed nights for the city.
Herein lies the rub – the manganese ore facility’s estimated daily turnover is a figure approaching one million rand per day and the tipping point for Transnet will be around money and not environmental concerns. To my mind Transnet are NOT willing to apply their minds to solving this problem and the longer we live with this situation the more arrogant they become.
One wonders if the reason why Transnet are placing enormous pressure on leisure facilities within the port is because they want to get rid of the ‘problem’ of tenants complaining about the unhygienic industrial conditions that they have to operate in?
On a smaller scale – the number of international yachts mooring within the Port has dwindled over the years as word has got out that the manganese ore facility has NOT moved. On an annual basis we have hundreds (if not thousands) of yachts bypassing our city as a result of the manganese ore dust pollution. In ideal conditions each yacht will spend a minimum of 7 days in the port and will normally refuel and victual before moving on, most will travel to game farms and eat at local restaurants. A rough estimate of that spend in the city is in the region of R30 000 per yacht. Two years ago during December we had 37 yachts mooring for a short period before moving on because of the manganese ore dust, if we could have kept them in the city for longer then we would all have benefited from around a R1 million spend.
Internationally there is a dire shortage of mooring facilities for super yachts – we could become a preferred mooring facility for these billionaire owners – who knows what the spend by these yachts would be? We could create a whole industry around servicing these vessels and create real jobs.
Read more here: Just say NO! | Dear Port Tenants – We have found JUST the paint for you.
Take part in our Manganese Ore Survey here:
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