MAC: Mines and Communities

South African community wins decision against mining

Published by MAC on 2011-06-20
Source: The New Age (2011-06-09)

Transkei community wins decision against mining

By Mawande Jack

The New Age

9 June 2011

Communities in the Transkei Wildcoast's Xolobeni area have successfully pressured the government to halt mining operations in the area.

The community of Xolobeni have won their battle to halt mining
The community of Xolobeni have won their battle to halt minin
Source: The New Age

This victory was marked by Minerals Minister Susan Shabangu's landmark decision to withdraw the right to mine on the Kwanyana Block at Xolobeni from two mining companies.

In a letter to Sarah Sephton, who represented the communities, Shabangu said while she was satisfied that mining company Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources SA "took all reasonable steps to consult with interested and parties," she, however, "withdraws the decision of the director-general to grant mining right" to the company.

She said the decision to grant the mining right was taken at a stage when several environmental issues were still outstanding.

The mining rights were awarded in July 2008 by then minerals and energy minister Buyelwa Sonjica, a decision which prompted the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in Grahamstown to challenge the matter in court if necessary.

However, in September the same year, Sonjica wrote to the human rights group's attorney, Sarah Sephton, indicating that the mining right issued to Australian mining company Mineral Resources Commodities (MRC) and its South African partner Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM) would not come into effect on October 31 2008 as had been undertaken by her office.

The minister halted the process so as to enable her to consult with King Sigcau, Queen MaSobhuza and Chief Baleni - the traditional leaders in the area.

She said oral hearings, where the LRC would represent the AmaDiba community and make legal submissions on why the minister should withdraw the decision to allow mining at Xolobeni, were to be held.

This decision was the sequel to the lodging of an internal appeal by the LRC on behalf of the AmaDiba Crisis Committee (ACC).

Events also led to the issuing of a written ultimatum that if the minister did not suspend the mining licence by October 1, 2008, then the LRC would consider going to court on behalf of the ACC to have the decision suspended.

The Xolobeni area is considered the traditional home of the AmaDiba people who claim to have occupied the land for centuries. The ACC said if the Xolobeni Mineral Sand mining project had proceeded as planned, the AmaDiba community would have "faced permanent and significant changes to their traditional way of life and their connection to the land.

"Such changes would involve forced evictions, loss of access to farmland, income and means of subsistence, relocation of ancestral graves, destruction of culturally important archaeological sites and negative impacts on the residents' health," the lawyer said.

"In short, the mining would result in unacceptable levels of pollution and damage to the environment and would fundamentally alter the life of the community to its detriment," she said.

The area is also part of the Pondoland marine protected region, acknowledged to be one of the most important centres of plant diversity in South Africa and where no commercial mining can take place.

Since the land was registered under the name of the state, he AmaDiba community was deemed to be the co-owner of the land.

LRC spokesman Khumbulani Mpofu said the minister's decision this week had led to the AmaDiba Crisis Committee withdrawing its complaint with the Public Protector against minister Shabangu's delay in announcing the decision on the matter.

The minister's decision was therefore a great victory for the LRC and the people of the AmaDiba community, he said.

"Just administrative action is fundamental to the building of a South African society based on human dignity, equality and freedom," he said.

Shabangu has, however, left the door open to allow the mining company 90 days in which to re-apply.

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