The impact of Cofferdam mining on communities was the subject of a two-day workshop hosted by Masifundise and One Ocean Hub in Port Nolloth earlier this month.

The purpose of the workshop was to undertake a community-based assessment of the Cofferdam mining in the province and its impact on lives and livelihoods.

Cofferdams are constructed sea walls that are built and used in beach mining for the extraction of diamonds.  Cofferdams use the sea walls to hold back the ocean from the beach in order to allow miners access to diamond bearing areas that underlie the beach. These man-made structures made from quarried materials are disruptive to the coastline and devastating to biodiversity and marine ecosystems.

The community-based assessment was to be achieved through working together with the community to unpack their history and their relationship to the ocean and its importance in securing livelihoods. The fishers mapped their community to show important sites and fishing areas, highlighting the areas with restricted access due to mining activities, and illustrating the changes in fish and crayfish stocks over time. They developed a detailed timeline of mining and fishing activities from the 80s until now.

The fishing community holds a wealth of knowledge and information. They can demonstrate the traditions around their practice, as well as a deep understanding of the ocean, the fisheries resource, the currents, and the winds.

This information is being collated and collected in order to illustrate the importance of the fishers’ ability to access the resource as well as the importance of the health of the environment.

It will also help to maintain the traditions and protect livelihoods of fishers on the West Coast in the face of a spree of diamond, heavy mineral, and sand mining, as well as oil and gas prospecting.

What also emerged from the two days of engagement with the Port Nolloth fishers, is an array of challenges that they are facing in the running and management of their cooperative. As Port Nolloth is the first functioning cooperative under the Small-scale fisheries policy, it is the first to experience and manage the challenges that are clearly related to a lack of training, support, and mentorship from the implementing body- the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment.