Cableway construction environmentally conscious

  • 20 September 2012 | Stuart Dickinson

The cableway is situated within one of the most significant geological rock structures in the world – the Bushveld Igneous Complex

How do you get 350 000 tons of building material up a mountain to reconstruct the longest mono-cableway in Africa, while still remaining environmentally conscious?

The Harties Cableway was constructed within one of the most significant geological rock structures in the world – the Bushveld Igneous Complex (BIC). The BIC is a large layered igneous intrusion within the Earth's crust, which contains some of the richest ore deposits in the world.

“The reconstruction of the cableway was complicated, and at times I wondered how we were going to make this vision a reality while still maintaining the integrity of the environment,” says director and project co-ordinator of the cableway, Craig Saunders.

But in the end, its construction was executed in the most green and economical way to avoid damaging this pristine area – so much so that Saunders was invited to consult on the construction of the Drakensberg Cableway.

Renewable resources including blue gum and pine trees were used alongside reused materials, such as old railway sleepers. Building materials were sourced and transported up the cableway in batches, while none of the existing environment on the mountain was disturbed – for example, rocks required were sourced from a quarry on the ground and not removed from the mountain face itself. 

Saunders also explains that construction was done on a “plan to build” not “build to plan” basis to ensure minimal environmental damage. This included building around an outcrop rather than ploughing through it to simply stick to a plan.

A storm rolls in during construction of the cableway

Areas that had already been desecrated from previous use were used rather than damaging new areas for the sake of aesthetics.

Additionally, heavy machinery was not used. Manual labour and the cableway’s gondolas were used to transport all materials to their relevant locations.

Now in operation, the Harties Cableway also makes use of various “green installations”, including:

  • Solar power, LED lighting, water conservation devices
  • Recycling stations and use of biodegradable eating implements
  • Demarcated paths and elevated decks ensure minimal human impact on the environment

This all translates into a better experience for visitors, who are able to take a joyride by cable car to the top of the mountain and enjoy unspoilt views of this beautiful part of the North West province.   

Some interesting construction facts:

  • Length of cableway: 1.2km
  • Cable used: 2.4km, equating to 9 tons of cable
  • Number of cable cars: 14 hi-tech cable cars
  • Number of tons of building material taken up to the top of the mountain: 350 000
  • Total investment: Just under R50 million
  • Number of workers over the entire period: More than 250, both contractors and sub-contractors
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