MAC: Mines and Communities

Protestors stand in solidarity with South African communities opposing mining

Published by MAC on 2016-05-09
Source: Statements, Guardian

Previous article on MAC: Defending South Africa's Wild Coast

Mining, Murder and a British Millionaire: Protestors stand in solidarity with South African communities opposing mining

Report by Hal Rhoades, The Gaia Foundation 

6 May 2016

Protestors from several organisations gathered in London yesterday to call on British millionaire Graham Edwards to help end Australian mining company Mineral Resources Limited (MRC) involvement in a controversial Xolobeni titanium mine on South Africa’s Wild Coast, or else divest his shares in the company.

British property magnate Edwards is a major shareholder in MRC and so has major influence within the company. As the sole owner and director of AU Mining Limited, he holds 96 million shares in the Australian company, which amounts to an estimated 23.6%.

MRC’s plan to mine a 22 kilometre strip of South Africa’s Eastern Cape for titanium has met sustained resistance from the local Amadiba community, the vast majority of whom are opposed to the mine.

South Africa’s Eastern Cape Department of Development, Environment and Tourism has succinctly reported the reasons why the community favour community-led alternatives to mining, such as eco-tourism:

“It (the mine) would require moving communities away from the area, destroying their livelihoods in the process, and potentially causing irreparable damage to the surrounding environment and curtailing any hopes of developing a viable ecotourism industry in the region over the medium to long term.”

MRC’s continued presence in the region despite community opposition has allegedly caused social division and serious violent incidents. The latest of these came on 22nd March this year when chair of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) and outspoken opponent of MRC’s mine, Sikhosiphi ‘Bazooka’ Radebe, was assassinated outside his home.

MRC denies any responsibility for violence and killings in the area, but the company’s attitude and intentions have come under serious scrutiny over comments made by executive chairman Mark Caruso. In a 2015 email, Caruso wrote:

“From time to time I have sought the Bible for understanding and perhaps I can direct you to Ezekiel 25.17… And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger, those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee… I am enlivened by [the] opportunity to grind all resistance to my presence and the presence of MSR [the South African subsidiary of Mineral Commodities] into the animals [sic] of history as a failed campaign.”

Equipped with a megaphone, leaflets, banners and placards members of Marikana Miners Solidarity Campaign, Movimiento Jaguar Despierto, London Mining Network, The Gaia Foundation and War on Want reminded Mr Edwards of the bloody violence that has engulfed the Amadiba community and the opportunity he has to help end it as a major shareholder.

The call from groups in the UK and South Africa is for Edwards to use his influence and encourage MRC to abandon the Xolobeni titanium project accoridng to the wishes of the Amadiba Community, or else to divest his shares in the company. With MRC’s AGM in Australia approaching on the 25th May, now is the time for Edwards to contemplate his involvement and take action.

A powerful statement from ACC member Nonhle Mbuthumba read aloud at the London protest, clearly demonstrates that if Edwards and MRC continue down their current path, they do so against the wishes and hopes of the Amadiba Community:

“There will be no mining on the Wild Coast. There will be life, there will be peace and there will be development supported by the people.

Mining will not pass – IMINING AIYPHUMELELI!”

Protesters released a video of solidarity statements after the event -

Mining shareholder: ‘divest and stop the violence’, says War on Want

War on Want press release

6 May 2016

War on Want has called on a British shareholder to divest his stake in a mining company whose plans for a new mine would force local people from their homes on the south east coast of South Africa.

War on Want joined representatives from the Marikana Mineworkers Support Campaign, the Gaia Foundation, the London Mining Network, Colombia Solidarity Campaign, Movimiento Jaguar Despierto and others, to demonstrate outside the offices of Graham Edwards, a major shareholder in Australia’s Mineral Commodities (MRC), with a holding of 23.6%.

MRC intends to mine 9 million tons of the mineral ilmenite, used in paints, from an opencast operation on pristine sand dunes in the area. The company’s plan to mine mineral sands at Xolobeni, has met with strong opposition from the local Amadiba people. The Amadiba have been fighting to defend their land for over a decade, during which time they have endured much intimidation and violence.

Only last month the chairman of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (set up to oppose the plans), Bazooka Radebe, was tragically gunned down as the violence intensified.

Tom Lebert, Senior International Programme Officer (Africa) at War on Want, said:

“This is clearly now a matter of life and death for the people of Xolobeni, who continue to face violence and intimidation simply for defending their homes and land.

“Mr Edwards holds serious sway when it comes to the future of the Xolobeni mine and the local people. We call on him to do the right thing; divest his stake and put the rights of Xolobeni people first.

“Right across Africa, local people are fighting back against the violence and exploitation wrought by the extractives industry. Mining routinely disrupts and destroys people's livelihoods, forces communities from their land, and damages their health and the environment.

“For too long large-scale miners and elites have grown rich on the backs of ordinary people, we stand in solidarity with the people of Xolobeni and their right to determine what takes place on their land.”

Notes to Editors

For more information contact Ross Hemingway +44 (0)7983 550 728

Independent Online: Xolobeni still simmers over MRC mine

Xolobeni battle surfaces in London

By Mike Loewe

7 May 2016

Mining activists in London this week accused a corporate investor of being the financial force behind the deadly battle to mine the dunes of Xolobeni.

He is Graham Edwards, chartered accountant and chief executive of investment company Telereal Trillium.

On Thursday activists from several anti-mining campaigns from around the world staged a picket outside the company’s glittering glass skyrise offices at 140 London Wall. The 20 protesters hoisted a rough sheet with words daubed in red: “No mining Amadiba land.”

They handed out pamphlets accusing Edwards of being the second biggest shareholder in Australian-listed mining company Mineral Resources (MRC), which is at the forefront of the drive to mine Xolobeni.

The protestors’ main call was for Edwards to divest from MRC.

They said in their pamphlet the assassination on March 29 of Amadiba Crisis Committee chairman Sikosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe at Mbizana near Xolobeni had brought the death toll of people opposed to MRC’s project to four.

The pamphlet was supported by the Pan-Afrikan Society Community Forum, Caribbean Labour Solidarity, Colombia Solidarity, the Gaia Foundation and War on Want.

Although MRC’s Australian CEO Mark Caruso is the company’s major shareholder, Kingston University associate professor Andy Higginbottom, who was part of the picket, says it is Edwards who is “the biggest beneficiary of MRC shareholdings”.

On Facebook, Edwards did not reply to this analysis but he rejected allegations by demonstrators that he was linked to the Xolobeni violence and urged protestors to take any evidence of this to the police. 

Curiosity over UK property owner’s links to Xolobeni

By Mike Loewe

10 May 2016

Curiosity is growing over the emergence of London property and mining financier Graham Edwards as a role player in the violence-wracked attempt to mine at Xolobeni.

Last week, international anti-mining campaigners publicly accused Edwards of being the financial muscle behind MRC, the Australian-led mining company and its BEE partners Xolco and Blue Bantry.

They called on Edwards to divest from MRC, which is involved in a vicious struggle with the anti-mining Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) that claims majority support in Xolobeni.

ACC and its national and international network of supporters are stating that four anti-mining members of the Xolobeni community have died in the conflict.

On Facebook last week Edwards challenged his detractors to supply the police with any information they possessed.

Yesterday, Edwards, who is CEO of major UK property corporation, Telereal Trillium, with head offices in smart 140 London Wall, replied briefly to Dispatch questions about his shareholdings in MRC.

He used public relations heavyweight Jonathan Hawker, of Slate Campaigns, to reply: “Thanks for your e-mail to my client, Graham Edwards. I can confirm his total interest in MRC is less than 25%.”

But London-based Kingston University economics and social research associate professor, Andy Higginbottom, author of the report “Follow the money – from Pondoland to London Wall”, accused Edwards of owning more of MRC.

Higginbottom questioned the secret identity of the three next largest shareholders in MRC.

These were the “blind nominee shareholders” represented by banks Citicorp (16.7%), JP Morgan (14.5%), and HSBC (10.1%).

“Following the money to a front company and investment trust reveals that Edwards is indeed not only the biggest beneficiary of MRC shareholdings, but has major interests in several other mining companies.”

Using blind nominee shareholdings was part of Edwards’ strategy of complex “financial engineering”, wrote Higginbottom. He said he traced two blind nominee shareholders in a major mining international investment company, D&A Income, registered in the “UK’s very own tax haven” of Jersey, directly to Edwards.

Higginbottom dug out a quote from a financial report produced by DMCI Holdings, a consortium partner of D&A Income, which stated that D&A Income was “an investment company owned by a trust of which the principal beneficiary is Graham Edwards, chief executive of Telereal Trillium, which is one of the UK’s largest property companies”.

Yet, D&A’s annual returns revealed only that its shares were held in trust by two accounts at HSBC bank. These were “exactly the kind of blind trusts that would show up as HSBC nominees on shareholder records like MRC’s,” said Higginbottom.

He also unravelled Edwards’ ownership of AU Mining, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands and has a Wellington, New Zealand address.

He did this by unearthing a document lodged with the Australian stock exchange which stated that Edwards was the sole director and beneficial owner of AU Mining.

UK property executive drawn into violent African mine dispute

Graham Edwards defends environmental credentials of titanium-mining project

Rob Davies

22 May 2016

A wealthy British investor has been dragged into a deadly dispute over a South African mine, after a community leader was killed amid allegations that excavating the site would damage the environment.

Threatening comments by Mark Caruso, the chief executive of the firm at the heart of the dispute, have also served to heighten tensions, say locals.

Graham Edwards, chief executive of the property group Telereal Trillium, owns a stake of at least 23% in the Australian mining firm Mineral Commodities (MRC), which wants to mine for titanium at Xolobeni in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

The plan faces opposition from members of the local Amadiba community, who say it will cause environmental problems and disturb ancestral gravesites on the 14-mile-long stretch of coastal sand dunes.

Tensions in the community have escalated since the shooting earlier this year of Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, who was chairman of the Amadiba crisis committee.

There is no suggestion that the company had any involvement with violence against opponents of its project.

But local people have expressed dismay over the aggressive rhetoric deployed by Caruso, chief executive of MRC.

In an email to “stakeholders” in the project in 2015, Caruso quoted the biblical line used by Samuel L Jackson’s character in the Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction before he shoots some drug dealers.

“From time to time I have sought the Bible for understanding and perhaps I can direct you to Ezekiel 25:17,” wrote Caruso.

“And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger, those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”

In a separate email, Caruso vowed to crush enemies of the project.

“I am enlivened by [the] opportunity to grind all resistance to my presence and the presence of MRC … into the animals [sic] of history as a failed campaign,” he said.

In March this year, Rhadebe was shot eight times in the head by men posing as policemen. Several other anti-mining activists have also been killed or injured.

The Amadiba community member Sinegugu Zukulu said: “MRC is determined to disrupt our way of life. This proposed mine has brought us conflict in the community since the process was started.

“A community that used to live in peace is now in conflict. Graham Edwards must do an honorable thing tell MRC to leave us alone.”

Edwards has taken to Facebook to take issue with objections to the mine, after activists staged a protest outside the London offices of Telereal Trillium.

“As I understand it, the mining process here involves taking sand, filtering it with water and magnetism and then replacing the sand,” he said.

“It is difficult to understand the ecological damage that this is purported to cause. I would have thought that the economic benefits to the local community would be welcomed, but obviously that is for the local community to decide.

“I am surprised that your group feel that they have better information as to who committed this horrible crime than the authorities, but if you really do have evidence as to the guilty party then please do share it – particularly with the police.”

He also shared details of a survey, conducted by an independent firm, into local attitudes to the project.

But sources said that while he was still in favour of the project, he was alarmed by the rhetoric employed by Caruso and planned to make his displeasure known.

Edwards declined to comment.

MRC said a poll of 200 locals showed that 77% either supported the mine unconditionally or wanted it to build local infrastructure.

The company declined to comment on Caruso’s biblical quotation.

“History shows not only have we invested substantially in mining development in South Africa but we have also done so working within the law in discharging our obligations under our prospecting and mining permits,” the company said.

“We believe that it is possible for responsible mining development to co-exist with environmental, social, and cultural purviews and this is what results in sustainable economic development.”

Questions from the Amadiba Crisis Committee, Wild Coast, South Africa

to the 25 May AGM of Mineral Resource Commodities Ltd in Perth, Australia

The 22 March assassination of the Amadiba Crisis Committee chair Bazooka Radebe followed after four months of intensified intimidations of the Amadiba coastal community. Our Headwoman Cynthia Baleni and five other homesteads were attacked during Christmas. Shots were fired. Two ACC members were injured in a bush knife attack 30 December. 31 December, four men were arrested. One is Mr Xolile Dimane, an employee of MRC’s company MSR that runs the Tormin mine in Western Cape. The same day, MSR director Zamile Qunya and TEM director Lunga Baleni tried to get the men out from the Mzamba police station. This failed. During a 6 day bail hearing, XolCo’s lawyer Mr Ximbi defended the accused, assisted by MSR director Zamile Qunya. The trial is set for the 6th of June. Do you still hold that MRC has no connections to the attacks on our community? Why is your local partner Xolco’s lawyer Mr Ximbi defending the suspects? What is Zamile Qunya’s expense account per month? What has the 14mn rand lent 2012 to his company and your partner Blue Bantry been used for?

Documents from the Western Cape Department of Environment confirm that your Tormin mine has expanded outside the permitted area. 25 May, fishermen and dismissed workers will protest outside Tormin. The fishermen claim that the mine is polluting the Olifant river mouth, destroying the fishing. After the strike in September, Tormin workers must accept an average of 228 work hours per month. They now work 12 hour night and day shifts in 8 day periods. Is this necessary for running a profitable business at Tormin? How can MRC continue MSR’s operations in Tormin despite violations of permits and labour laws?

MRC has recently chosen to challenge the jurisdiction over the Amadiba coastal area of the Umgungundlovu traditional authority, decided by chief Lunga’s grandfather over 60 years ago. In your director Zamile Qunya’s latest affidavit, the Umgungundlovu area doesn’t exist. Can you guarantee your shareholders that your sudden efforts to deny the coastal Amadiba community legal representation and voice will hold in a South African court?

In September, MRC made Amadiba chief Lunga Baleni a mining applicant and “director” of your company TEM. Your plot will leave him with nothing and lead to his downfall. An AmaMpondo chief is not a land owner. He cannot sign anything opposed by his community. Why is MRC promoting a role for the chief as this role was under apartheid?

Finally, a message to MRC’s CEO Mark ‘Wrath-of-the-Lord’ Caruso:

In an email made public by South African Sunday Times (29/11), Mr Caruso warned municipality officials in Western Cape with the vengeance of the Lord if they would stand in his way. For this purpose he “directed” them to Ezekiel 25.17. This Bible quote was made famous by two hitmen in the movie Pulp Fiction.

By mere coincidence, two hitmen assassinated our beloved Bazooka Radebe on the 22nd of March. The ACC for our part wishes to direct Mr Caruso to the Book of James, 5.1-6 (Good News Translation, GNT):
“Warning to the Rich

1 And now, you rich people, listen to me! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming upon you! 2 Your riches have rotted away, and your clothes have been eaten by moths. 3 Your gold and silver are covered with rust, and this rust will be a witness against you and will eat up your flesh like fire. You have piled up riches in these last days. 4 You have not paid any wages to those who work in your fields. Listen to their complaints! The cries of those who gather in your crops have reached the ears of God, the Lord Almighty. 5 Your life here on earth has been full of luxury and pleasure. You have made yourselves fat for the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered innocent people. Will God not resist you?”

Listen, MRC share holders: There will never be any mining on Wild Coast.

For the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC)

Nonhle Mbuthuma +27 763592982; Mzamo Dlamini +27 721940949.

The Umgungundlovu Traditional Authority and the ACC are represented by Richard Spoor Inc. in Johannesburg and LRC in Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg.

For legal issues in the coastal Amadiba community struggle against mining:

Thabiso Mbhense +27 711099340, Henk Smith +27 832661770 and Richard Spoor 0836271722.

Note: The final question in verse 6 is suggested by the GNT editors as one possible translation from Armenian. For the purpose of educating Mr Caruso, it serves as the best interpretation.

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