A report on a heritage impact assessment for the proposed R31 realignment project close to Hotazel, Northern Cape ProvinceSummary

Archaetnos cc was appointed by GCS to conduct a cultural heritage study for the proposed R31 realignment Project which is necessitated due to the expansion of activities at the proposed Mukulu Manganese Mine. The project was commissioned by Hatch on behalf of Eramet South Africa. The project already started in 2012 and since then various administrative and logistical aspects of the project received attention and approval. The client is Main Street 778 (Pty) Ltd. The current study is done in order to obtain further authorizations.

The Mukulu Manganese Mine Project, including the R31 realignment, is situated to the west of the existing Assmang Manganese Black Rock Mine. This is to the north of Hotazel in the Northern Cape Province and located across seven farms being Mukulu 265, Santoy 230, Belgravia 264, Olive Wood 282, Tigerpan 266 and Epsom 285. This project however only focused on the realignment of the R31 road.

The Terms of Reference for the survey were to:

  • Identify objects, sites, occurrences and structures of an archaeological or historical nature (cultural heritage sites) located on the property
  • Assess the significance of the cultural resources in terms of their archaeological, historical, scientific, social, religious, aesthetic and tourism value
  • Describe the possible impact of the proposed development on these cultural remains, according to a standard set of conventions
  • Recommend suitable mitigation measures to minimize possible negative impacts on the cultural resources by the proposed development
  • Review applicable legislative requirements

The following conditions and assumptions have a direct bearing on the survey and the resulting report:

  • Cultural Resources are all non-physical and physical man-made occurrences, as well as natural occurrences associated with human activity.
  • The significance of the sites, structures and artifacts is determined by means of their historical, social, aesthetic, technological and scientific value in relation to their uniqueness, condition of preservation and research potential.
  • Cultural significance is site-specific and relates to the content and context of the site.
  • The latitude and longitude of any archaeological or historical site or feature, is to be treated as sensitive information by the developer and should not be disclosed to members of the public.
  • All recommendations are made with full cognizance of the relevant legislation.
  • It has to be mentioned that it is almost impossible to locate all the cultural resources in a given area, as it will be very time consuming. Developers should however note that the report should make it clear how to handle any other finds that might occur.
  • It never is possible to know all sites previously recorded in a certain area to be investigated.

Aspects concerning the conservation of cultural resources are dealt with mainly in two acts. These are the National Heritage Resources Act (Act 25 of 1999) and the National Environmental Management Act (Act 107 of 1998).

According to the National Heritage Resources Act the following is protected as cultural heritage resources:

  • Archaeological artifacts, structures and sites older than 100 years
  • Ethnographic art objects (e.g. prehistoric rock art) and ethnography
  • Objects of decorative and visual arts
  • Military objects, structures and sites older than 75 years
  • Historical objects, structures and sites older than 60 years
  • Proclaimed heritage sites
  • Grave yards and graves older than 60 years
  • Meteorites and fossils
  • Objects, structures and sites or scientific or technological value

Graves and burial grounds are divided into the following:

  • ancestral graves
  • royal graves and graves of traditional leaders
  • graves of victims of conflict
  • graves designated by the Minister
  • historical graves and cemeteries
  • human remains

The National Environmental Management Act states that a survey and evaluation of cultural resources must be done in areas where development projects, that will change the face of the environment, will be undertaken. The impact of the development on these resources should be determined and proposals for the mitigation thereof are made.

The methodology for the Project included the following:

  • Survey of literature
  • Field survey – done according to generally accepted HIA practices and aime at locating all possible objects, sites and features of cultural significance in the area of proposed development.
  • Documentation – done according to the general minimum standards accepted by the archaeological profession.
  • Evaluation of Heritage sites:
  •           The unique nature of a site
  •           The integrity of the archaeological deposit
  •           The wider historic, archaeological and geographic context of the site
  •           The location of the site in relation to other similar sites or features
  •           The depth of the archaeological deposit (when it can be determined or is known)
  •           The preservation condition of the site
  •           Uniqueness of the site and
  •           Potential to answer present research questions.

The area that was surveyed is mostly disturbed, as the alignment route follows existing farm roads and fences. Natural vegetation in the area however is reasonably dense with large open patches in between. In all both the horizontal as the vertical archaeological visibility was good.

The natural topography in most of the surveyed area is reasonably flat, although low red sand dunes are found throughout.

During the survey no site of cultural heritage significance was located. However, there always is a possibility that sites may become known later and that those need to be dealt with in accordance with the legislation discussed. In fact some sites are known in the wider geographical area, located during other surveys done there.

The final recommendations are as follows:

  • No heritage sites were identified on the proposed R31 realignment route.
  • It should be remembered that due to the factors indicated in the report, it is possible that all cultural sites may not have been identified. Also the subterranean presence of archaeological and/or historical sites, features or artifacts are always a distinct possibility. Care should therefore be taken when development work commences that, if any more artifacts are uncovered, a qualified archaeologist be called in to investigate.
  • This report is therefore seen as ample mitigation and the development may continue.
  • Proposed management measures for potential impacts, which should be followed as heritage protocol are:
  •           Loose stone tools found are usually of minor significance and should just be left as it is.
  •           Areas where a substantial number of stone tools are found together should be geo-referenced and left alone until such time as an archaeologist can visit the site to determine its significance.
  •           Although chances of finding Iron Age remains are slim, it should be treated similar to the above.
  •           Potshards found out of context should be left alone, but areas with stone walling or substantial pottery and other cultural remains should be geo-referenced and left alone until investigated by an archaeologist.
  •           All buildings and remains of buildings and other structures believed to be older than 60 years should be geo-referenced and left alone until and a heritage expert can be called in to determine the cultural significance thereof.
  •           Graves should be left in situ, geo-referenced and left alone until investigated by an archaeologist.

Report by

Prof. A.C. van Vollenhoven (L.AKAD.SA.) Accredited member of ASAPA Accredited member of SASCH