A controversial application to prospect and mine for gold, silver and tin in the environmentally sensitive Agulhas area of the Western Cape has been put on hold — for now. But the secrecy surrounding the applicant — and associates — leaves many questions unanswered and the economic future of the area, which relies heavily on agriculture and tourism, uncertain.

The district at the centre of the dispute between the prospecting and mining applicant Cienth and objectors is close to the southernmost point of Africa, near the town of Napier. If prospecting and subsequent opencast mining are given the green light, opponents of the application say the excavations — roughly equivalent to the size of 300 rugby fields initially — will have a devastating effect on tourism, hospitality, agriculture and surrounding communities...

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