scorched earth

Wild Coast Mining conflict back on the boil

  • Posted on: 14 April 2015
  • By: JB

JOHN CLARKE 13 APR 2015 12:53 (SOUTH AFRICA)

Source: Daily Maverick

 
 
While the bronze image of Cecil John Rhodes was being removed last week from the steps of the University of Cape Town, his ghost still hovered ominously over the mineral rich dunes of the Pondoland Wild Coast. For the third time since 2007, the Perth-based mining entrepreneur Mark Caruso is trying to secure mining rights for his venture capital company MRC Ltd, via his South African subsidiary Transworld Energy Mineral Resources (Pty) Ltd. They face formidable opposition organised by the Amadiba Crisis Committee, which came into existence eight years ago when TEM/MRC made their first attempt to obtain mining rights in 2007. This was ultimately defeated after a long and arduous six-year struggle.

MRC/TEM’s second attempt was abandoned after still more resolute opposition from local residents, but the same company announced on 6 March that a fresh application had been lodged with the Department of Mineral Resources.

The Umgungungdlovu Komkhulu (tribal court room) that overlooks the mineral-rich coastal dunes of the Wild Coast was too small to accommodate the large crowd of some 400 angry and offended rural residents who turned up for yet another raucous meeting about mining.

On this occasion, the meeting was scheduled for later than usual (1pm) and the Senior Chief, Lunga Baleni, came along to introduce Mr Badenhorst and his team. Ordinarily the facilitating presence of the chief would have helped to make the requisite cross-cultural connections, but given that Lunga Baleni was widely perceived to have capitulated to being a puppet of MRC/TEM (testified by his arrival in a gleaming new 4x4), his formal power failed to translate into influential authority. He was jeered when he opened the meeting because according to Mpondo customary law, the chief is not supposed to take sides, but facilitate participation and dialogue to build peace. The de facto authority now clearly resided in the leaders of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, which included the well-respected Induna’s(headmen) for the Umgungundlovu tribal substructure.

Besides the antipathy toward the Chief, the mood of the meeting was affected by two other serious process issues.

Firstly, the absence of one of one of their most revered indunas, Bhalasheleni Mtanyelwa Mthwa, who had mysteriously fallen ill overnight. His trademark cheerfulness, wit and wisdom had become a fixture at the Komkhulu for years, nerving the youth against panic and seduction, guiding the elders with insight and wisdom, and uniting everybody with inspirational insights. His homestead is less than a kilometre away from the Komkhulu toward the coast. The red mineral rich dunes start at the bottom of his vegetable garden. From the inception of the mining conflict he has been a stalwart of the struggle. His proximity to the dunes, together with his absolute determination that he will not move, has made him one of the biggest obstacles to the ambitions of the mining company.

Secondly the meeting started only at 13.00. Amadiba Crisis Committee spokesperson Mzamo Dlamini said that at a Traditional Authority meeting two weeks prior, two hundred upset residents who had read the posters advertising the schedule of meetings insisted that their Head Woman, Cynthia Baleni, demand that the meeting should start 10.00 a.m., as is custom. “The reason is the 15km and more walking distances for some participants. This was rejected by Badenhorst, claiming that Chief Lunga Baleni had agreed to the schedule. How can a consultant come and claim he is neutral and start out by insulting the Umgungundlovu Traditional Authority by not starting the process at the Umgungundlovu Komkhulu?”

john-wildcoast-subbedm photo

The perceived manipulation of the process meant that the meeting was over before it had really begun. Badenhorst was not able to get past probing questions from members of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, who wanted to know what motives and interests lay behind the new application. Or, to be more precise, the ACC members knew exactly what motives and interests lay behind the application, but wanted it all out in the open. ACC’s questions were actually directed at educating Mr Badenhorst and his team that the Amadiba’s local history mattered much more than mere compliance with a legislative process.

In terms of Mpondo customary law, any decision that proposes to alter any existing rights with respect to communally owned land must commence from the grassroots up. Rhodes’ annexation of Pondoland to the Cape Colony in 1894 never respected that.

First up was Sinegugu Zukulu, to show the consultants that they were dealing with an empowered community whose patience and tolerance toward manipulative mining agents had long expired. Zukulu’s leading role had been crucial to shaping the history of the Amadiba’s hitherto successful, but costly, battle against the foreign mining forces. With a Masters degree in Environmental Management and many years of experience as an educator, Zukulu showed that while formal power can be conferred from above, influential authority had to be earned from below. Sustained by his deep Christian faith, he had earned his authority by sacrificial personal experience, enduring the bitter pain of estranged friendships and ruptured kinship networks, because of the ruthless methods used by the mining company to ‘divide and rule’.

He asked them to make it clear to the people that whereas the previous mining rights application had been narrowed down to only one third of the mining tenement, MRC/TEM were now wanting to secure the rights to mine the entire 22km stretch of coastal dunes all the way from the Mzamba to Mtentu river gorges. “You must tell the people that many more homesteads will be directly affected. The Kwanyana block alone had 38 homesteads. The entire area has more than 200 homesteads that will be directly affected.”

In short, people are living there. And they don’t want to move away and leave their ancestral lands to be plundered.

Next, Nonhle Mbuthuma, who has since 2006 played a leading role in the ACC in organising and empowering the community to assert their constitutional rights, asked Badenhorst to explain exactly who the applicants “Transworld Energy Mineral Resources” were, since there was no one present from the company.

She clearly knew a lot more than did Mr Badenhorst about their history. Accompanied by raucous cheers from the fired-up residents, she explained that the community had already made it quite clear, firstly in 2007 to the head of TEM John Barnes, and then again to his successor Andrew Lashbrooke in 2013, as well as to the Department of Mineral Resources throughout that the overwhelming majority of the residents living in the 200-plus homesteads (and many others besides), had already decided that they did not want their ancestral lands to be mined.

“Yes, leave us alone,” someone shouted from the crowd. “We are not interested in the mining. Why do you keep coming back?”

Badenhorst explained that he had been commissioned to restart the EIA process “because the law had since been changed" and he had been sent to offer the community another opportunity to again express their concerns and issues, so as to educate the Department of Mineral Resources afresh as to why they should or shouldn't award mining rights.

"But our minds have not changed," someone shouted from the crowd, just before another angry man, brandishing a knobkierie, made his way out of the crowd toward Badenhorst and his team, intent on hammering the message home.

He was restrained by other residents, and shepherded away to cool off, but since it had become clear that the normal tolerance and goodwill of the community had been long overdrawn, and that further effort to engage with them was pointless, Chief Baleni and Mr Badenhorst decided discretion was the better part of valour, and started packing up.

With the crowd singing "imining ayiphumeleli" (mining will not succeed), they hastened the motorcade along its way. It was guava season and a few ripe guavas and maize cobs were thrown, aimed at Chief Lunga Baleni’s vehicle, as he hastily negotiated a three-point turn to follow Badenhorst and the rest of the TEM/MRC team out of the area.

Badenhorst declined to be interviewed afterwards, saying only that “I have done my job, according to what the law requires.”

Sinegugu Zukulu then rushed to fetch Bhalasheleni from his homestead and turned his bakkie into a makeshift ambulance to drive him and his anxious wife to get urgent medical attention.

While driving back, Zukulu explained to me that the level of militancy displayed by the people of Mgungundlovu was something he had not seen before. “It clearly demonstrated that they have had enough of this. I do not approve of hut burnings, but if the government studied the history of amaMpondo, they would know that it was here that the Mpondo revolt of 1960 started. You don’t take land from amaMpondo.”

But it is not only the law that has changed. When MRC/TEM/Xolco commenced their first mining rights application process in 2006 a tightly-controlled media cordon was enforced by the ring leaders of the pro-mining faction. Before the Amadiba Crisis Committee had been formed to counter the co-option and subversion strategy, Mbuthuma, Zukulu and other brave residents feared for their lives if they were seen speaking to journalists. In the first major expose by SABC’s 50/50 filmed in October 2006, they had to sneak across the Mzamba gorge to be interviewed at the Wild Coast sun resort to avoid attracting the attention of thugs in the employ of the mining company.

The courage that they showed ensured that the media cordon collapsed and the Wild Coast Xolobeni mining saga became the top environmental story of 2007/2008. As the Amadiba ascended up the Snakes and Ladders board to an unprecedented victory, their success was in no small measure due to journalists who provided ‘ladders’ and helped the local residents spot the more poisonous ‘snakes’. They forced the Minister of Mineral Resources to revoke the mining rights without having to go to court. That has never happened before.

Will it happen again?

The media cordon has long gone, and there is no objective reason that it cannot. In June this year, the premiere of a feature-length documentary The Shore Break, which tells the disturbing story of the Amadiba’s bitter struggle, is due for release in South Africa in the next few months. (It has already won an award for Best Feature Length Documentary at the International Environmental Documentary Film Festival in Paris in February.) DM

Postscript: Balashaleni Mtanyelwa Mthwa died at 3pm on Saturday afternoon. Further details and funeral arrangements will be announced in due course.

John Clarke is a social worker and author of the book The Promise of Justice: King Mpondombini Sigcau’s struggle to save the Mpondo from unjust developments. See www.thepromiseofjustice.co.za.

Photo: Local Amadiba residents assemble at Komkhulu. Picture by Mzamo Dlamini.

Australia based MRC controls Tormin: Disregards Environmental Protection Regulations

  • Posted on: 24 November 2014
  • By: JB

Australia based MRC controls Tormin:  Disregards Environmental Protection Regulations

Quote: "For locals it was another instance of Tormin's disregard for the environmental protection conditions required by its licence."

Xolobeni and N2 toll road disaster will follow if their application is granted to strip mine the Wild Coast's titanium deposits at  Xolobeni.

Coastal residents fear mining impact

Ann Crotty | 22 November, 2014 20:12

What happens at Tormin is being watched closely not just by people in the area but also by a community thousands of kilometres away on the other side of South Africa. Australian-listed Mineral Commodities (MRC), the muscle behind Tormin, has plans to mine titanium from the sand at Xolobeni, a pristine area south of Port Edward on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape.

 

The Department of Mineral Resources confirmed it had received a new application for a prospecting right at Xolobeni and said the application was under adjudication.

On the West Coast, Tormin has ambitions to expand mining for zircon, garnet, rutile and ilmenite - used in ceramics, paint, paper and plastic. But, if the allegations are correct, it could be that, without more effective monitoring, economic benefits will be overwhelmed by damage to the environment, including the roads.

In Vredendal, locals say they are not against mining but their concerns include damage being done to the roads by the trucks that ferry the zircon from Tormin's plant to Cape Town and garnet and ilmenite to Saldanha. "We have a huge problem with the trucks. The roads are not designed for this, but when we mention that, [Gary] Thompson [the Australian GM] says it's not his responsibility, it's the responsibility of the trucking company," said a resident after a public meeting to discuss a proposal to double the size of the plant.

Tormin is required by the National Nuclear Regulator to exercise considerable care when handling and transporting the low-level radioactive material produced from mining the sands. There are indications that these regulations are being contravened. The regulator and the Department of Environmental Affairs did not respond to requests for comment.

On the other side of the country, Nonhle Mbuthuma of the Amadiba Crisis Committee said disturbing reports from the West Coast confirm their determination to prevent MRC from mining the Xolobeni sands.

"Their plans would destroy a stretch of the South African coast that is uniquely beautiful. It could be harnessed to support a valuable ecotourism industry that would provide livelihoods for generations to come."

She explained that the mining activity would destroy surrounding farms and homesteads, and transporting the material to a harbour would cause huge damage.

Xolobeni is regarded as a valuable source of titanium, with production expected to reach 65000 tons a month if MRC is given the go-ahead.

"We fear there could be as many as 60 trucks a day travelling from the mine through an area that has no tarred roads and has lots of children going to and from school, and livestock roaming free. Mining will destroy this area and the lives of everyone in it," said Mbuthuma.

She suspects that the South African National Roads Agency Limited's determination to build the N2 highway so that it passes just a few kilometres from the Xolobeni site reflects a desire to accommodate the miners. At Vredendal, Tormin is providing employment to about 140 people. However, most management jobs are held by Australians and, in a move that has caused consternation among locals, a large number of staff have been brought in from the Eastern Cape.

The prominence of Australians in the top ranks reflects MRC's control of Tormin. That dominance has become more evident since South African Andrew Lashbrooke resigned as CEO of MRC's local operator, MSR, in September. Several other South African managers left after Lashbrooke. Most were replaced by Australians.

Lashbrooke's involvement was tied to the belief that his company, Blastrite, had rights to the garnet that was a by-product of zircon production and is used in sand-blasting. In exchange for these rights, Lashbrooke managed Tormin and undertook to assist MRC in securing the Xolobeni mining rights. To this end, Lashbrooke introduced MRC's executive chairman, Mark Caruso, to the Eastern Cape-based black economic empowerment company Blue Bantry/Xolco.

In July, MRC told its shareholders that it had entered into a three-year garnet offtake agreement with GMA Garnet Group of Australia. People with knowledge of Tormin say Blastrite did not have sufficient capacity to take up all the garnet produced by Tormin. This resulted in stockpiling of the low-grade radioactive material and in some instances in it being dumped back into the sea. For locals it was another instance of Tormin's disregard for the environmental protection conditions required by its licence.

http://www.timeslive.co.za/businesstimes/2014/11/22/coastal-residents-fear-mining-impact

Shabangu in mining furore over Xolobeni rights

  • Posted on: 12 August 2014
  • By: JB

Posted on 11 August 2014. Tags: 

Former Mineral Resources Minister, Susan Shabangu.

Former Mineral Resources Minister, Susan Shabangu.

Australian miner Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources will be granted a licence to mine at South Africa’s West Coast after first having its licence revoked at Xolobeni three years ago.

The company, which is part of ASX-listed Mineral Commodities (MRC), will be granted a licence to mine at the site ‘within days’, reports The Sunday Times.

Shabangu about-turn

In 2011, then Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu told MRC that its mining right at Xolobeni had been revoked, and the self-same Shabangu, now the Minister of Women in the Presidency, announced the decision to allow Transworld to mine at Xolobeni.

Shabangu delivered news of the mining rights granted at Xolobeni when she addressed about 50 ANC councillors in the Alfred Nzo district of the Eastern Cape last week.

She said a new licence would be issued within days and that the people who had previously opposed the planned mine now supported it.

Social transformation

MRC said that the Xolobeni project would be ‘catalyst for social transformation of one of South Africa’s poorest communities’.

An elder in the community, Bhalasheni Mthwa, is quoted by the Sunday Times as saying, the development was welcome, but not if it means that land was destroyed in the process.

In August 2012, a group from the Xolobeni community called the Amadiba Crisis Committee filed an objection to a prospecting rights application by Transworld, which is part of MRC.

World-class asset

MRC said on its website that the area had a capacity to be a ‘world-class ilmenite asset’.

Transworld’s mining right application in 2007 was for the Xolobeni block that comprises 30% of the total area.

The licence was to mine sands containing some 139 million tonnes of titanium-bearing minerals, including ilmenite, zircon, leucoxene, and rutile.

Ilmenite is mined for titanium dioxide, a white powder used as a base pigment for paint, paper and plastics.

http://www.miningne.ws/2014/08/11/shabangu-in-mining-furore-over-xolobeni-rights/

RAVAGED WILD COAST

  • Posted on: 22 March 2014
  • By: JB

Click for full screen view

RAVAGED WILD COAST

By ANDREW STONE and BONGANI FUZILE on March 22, 2014 (Daily Dispatch)

HIGHLY lucrative but illegal sand mining, on what was arguably one of the country’s most pristine coastlines, is behind the construction of government schools, RDP houses and private homes in the Eastern Cape.

A two-month long investigation has revealed local communities, building supply stores, local businessmen and even construction companies are involved in illegal sand mining operations along the Wild Coast.Click for full screen view

BRAZEN:
Dispatch reporters watched as this truck was loaded with sand from an illegal mine on the banks of the Mbashe River. Reporters followed it to a construction site of a government school Picture: ANDREW STONE

The police and the Port St Johns Municipality are aware of this but don’t seem to be doing much.

Today we can reveal three Eastern Cape construction giants – Mpumalanga Construction, Fitscape and AlfDav Construction – have all been using illegally mined sand to build schools and RDP houses in the Transkei.

Our month-long investigation also uncovered the following:

Local communities charge about R150 for an eight-ton load of sand which is then sold to the end user for between R1200 and R2600;
Employees from Centane and Ndabeni-based building supply companies admitted to undercover reporters they had sold illegally mined sand;
Reporters witnessed trucks belonging to Port Elizabeth-based construction company Fitscape collecting sand from the banks of a stream near Lusikisiki;
A truck carrying illegally mined sand from the banks of the Mbashe River was followed to a construction site near Elliotdale where East London-based Mpumalanga Construction is building a school for the government; and
A second newly built government school in Nombanjana village near Wavecrest was allegedly built using illegally mined sand.
Many of the mines are located in the 1km Coastal Conservation Area along the Wild Coast, a zone that was established to protect the sensitive coastal and estuarine environments of the region.

With no rehabilitation plans in place, the mines are destroying hundreds of acres of natural flora, causing massive soil erosion and degradation of roads by heavily laden trucks. If not checked, this could lead to the loss of thousands of tons of fertile soil being washed away, landslides and slumps becoming more common as hillsides are made unstable, and the silting of rivers.

The three construction companies have denied any involvement in the illegal operation.

Mpumalanga construction company is building a school, as part of the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (Asidi) in Elliotdale. AlfDav is building a similar school in Centane while Fitscape is building RDP houses in Ingquza Hill municipality. Asidi was set up in 2011 to eradicate mud schools, with 49 new schools having been built in the province since 2011. Another 49 schools were almost complete and another 120 were being planned for next year.

Mpumalanga Construction said it was not aware the sand had been illegally mined. Spokesman Ian Cooper said they were using a local supplier as per government tender requirements.

“There have been various suppliers [delivering sand] but I have not met them or seen any permits,” he said.

At Nombanjana village, AlfDav Construction is almost finished building a school with sand mined from inside the 1km protected coastal zone. Villagers said the firm had been mining sand since the start of the project two years ago.

But Azola Vela from AlfDav referred queries back to villagers. “It will be better if you can consult the committee of the Nombanjana Community where we bought the sand,” said Vela.

Further north near Lusikisiki, our team followed a large truck with a Fitscape Construction logo and contact details after it was seen loading sand from an illegal dig on the banks of a small stream. The company is building RDP houses for the Ingquza Hill Municipality in the area. Local councillor Nontobeko Daliwe said the company had promised to pay the community for the sand. “They promised to give us money and to build us a hall,” said Daliwe.

Andy Scoccia, speaking on behalf of Fitscape, denied the company mined sand illegally. “On what premise do you make this assumption? Could you give us names of persons spoken to and GPS co-ordinates for investigation,” he asked in an e-mail.

But when the Dispatch provided the details, Scoccia changed his tune.

“It could be an occasional load – as happens in most rural operations – was taken from a river bed but we buy our aggregates commercially as the norm,” he said.

In Port St Johns, the Dispatch witnessed illegal miners removing sand from a site in the town not far from the police station.

After flagging down a passing police vehicle, an officer said it was a “municipality problem, not ours”.

However this contradicts a letter written by PSJ station commander Colonel NX Mabula in 2012 to residents, in which he says police are committed to helping the municipality fight illegal sand mining. Port St Johns mayor Mnyamezeli Mangqo said the municipality was aware of the illegal sand mining and “is responding”.

A local businessman, ZNdabeni, was arrested for sand mining on municipal land on March 7. His truck was impounded and he appeared in court on March 10.

Department of Mineral Resources spokeswoman Ayanda Shezi said: “Community awareness sessions are being held in conjuction with the department of rural development and agrarian reform. Perpetrators are informed and educated when confronted.”

Permits had been granted to mine sand in Port St Johns and near the Mbashe River, but did not give the exact locations, Shezi said.

Xolobeni mining update

  • Posted on: 13 August 2012
  • By: JB
Latest news: On Wednesday, 2012-08-08 the Amadiba Crisis Committee filed an Objection against the prospecting right application made by Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources SA: http://www.lrc.co.za/images/stories/CaseRelatedDocs/2012%2008%2008%20Objection.pdf The objection was filed jointly by the ACC and Sun International, which operates the Wild Coast Sun resort adjacent to the proposed mining area. * TEM is ineligible for a new grant of prospecting rights because their application is redundant: they have already prospected the site, and are therefore merely attempting to hoard the rights. This transparent ploy creates more uncertainty and directly impedes development of the tourism potential in and through the area; * Prospecting and mining activities cannot take place in the Xolobeni region at all because it is within an already designated Marine Protected Area (MPA). The tiny Pondoland Centre of Endemism (PCE), where the mining is proposed, is the second most florastically abundant region in Southern Africa, and one of only 26 such species rich places on earth; * Mining the area will lead to unacceptable environmental and social harm. The objection clearly states the inevitable outcome of the limited short-term capital gain operations versus the long-term (infinite) sustainability of eco-tourism: Mining will irreversibly degrade the ecology, sense of place, and appeal of the area. * The community will be displaced. The unacceptable outcomes of strip-mining include, inter-alia: 1. Forced eviction from their ancestral lands: 2. Loss of access to farmland for both crops and livestock, leading to subsequent loss of income, means of subsistence, and way of life; 3. Decreased viability of subsistence agriculture and fishing due to dust fallout; 4. Risk to irrigation from declining ground water sources; 5. Relocation/destruction of ancestral graves; 6. Destruction of culturally important archaeological sites; 7. Loss of current tourism and potential eco-tourism opportunities in the area, as Kwanyana camp, which is pivotal for accessing trails, will not be able to be used by tourists for lifetime of the mine; and 8. Irreversible damage to residents' sense of place, which is closely associated with unspoiled character and traditional use of the land. 9. Basically, irreversible degradation to the environment for a short term gain of $6 billion. Please sign our petition at www.causes.com/wildcoast for the Wild Coast to be declared a "no-go" area for mining once and for all.

N2 Toll road decision

  • Posted on: 30 July 2011
  • By: JB
Minister of Water & Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, has approved the controversial N2 tollroad through the environmentally sensitive Pondoland Centre of Endemism. In a 21 page fax sent out to IAPs she dismissed all 49 appeals lodged in objection to the new road. What is clear is that the minister is being a "loyal cadre" and carrying out the wishes of the ANC, while betraying her office and responsibilities to the environment. Download the Fax here: 184635892.pdf 26 of the appeals were dismissed out of hand due to the fact that they address socio-economic impacts of the tolling; which was the responsibility of the dept of transport and the SANRAL Act. Concerns about ribbon, or linear development were not possible to consider because it would be based on only "potential future developments" and were dismissed. A major concern addressed by numerous appeals was SANRAL's bias towards the new 75km section of road between Lusikisiki and Mzamba and against the upgrading of the existing R61. The "Terms of Reference for Environmental Consultant N2 Wild Coast Toll Road Project" (TOR) included a requirement that there must be "due consideration of alternative options and a strong motivation for excluding the R61 and current N2 as alternative options". This was dismissed by the minister because the client was simply letting the prospective contractors know their requirements. Roughly, their requirements when going to tender equate to any 'impartial' verdict that aligns with their interests. And their interests are a shorter, Tolled road to attract revenue. Not an upgraded existing route that is 75km longer. Whether the relative costs of upgrading the existing R61 were accurately compared to the cost of the new road with bridge-spans or not is doubtful, but the environmental and cost objections seem tenuous at best. And in a classic sleight of hand, the honorable minister proves that the point is moot anyway because the condition was only raised in the TOR, but was never annexed to the contract binding the environmental consultants (CCA) to SANRAL, and can therefor be assumed to be non-binding. In the minister's words "Therefore, I do not agree with the interpretation of the appellant that the EAP is compelled to provide a strong motivation that the R61 and current N2 should not be considered as an option." Download the Fax here: 184635892.pdf "That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach. "Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth. By simply not mentioning certain subjects... totalitarian propagandists have influenced opinion much more effectively than they could have by the most eloquent denunciations." -Aldous Huxley

Outrage over N2 approval

  • Posted on: 30 July 2011
  • By: JB
Opponents of the N2 toll road that will snake through the Wild Coast are ready to take their battle to the highest court following the controversial road's approval by Environment Minister Edna Molewa this week. The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) has fought tooth and nail to build the road from Durban to East London for the past 10 years but has faced fierce opposition from environmentalists, the local community and civil society. Sanral argues that the Wild Coast community is one of the poorest in the country and would be well served by the development of a road system to encourage tourism and open up the region to economic opportunities. "We are shocked by the decision, but not really surprised," said Cormac Cullinan, lawyer for the local community opposing the road. "Considering the political support this project had, it was just a matter of time before the road was approved." Two years ago, before appeals were lodged against the road, Co-operative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka told the SABC: "The N2 road is going ahead. We will make sure that this thing goes ahead." Cullinan represents the Sigidi, Baleni and Mdatya communities, the Khimbili Property Association and residents in the amaDiba tribal authority living in the Wild Coast. His firm was successful in getting the project canned in 2004 by then environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, but Sanral reapplied in 2008. Cullinan said the decision was flawed and his clients would in all likelihood turn to the high court if they could raise the funds for a lengthy court battle. Effects of the toll road The amaPondo had a proud history of resistance, he said. "There is no reason to believe that they would not be ready for a bitter fight if necessary. This road goes right through their ancestral land and will have a profound effect on their culture. "Our first step would probably be to take the matter on review and seek an immediate interdict against the controversial Greenfields section through the Wild Coast." The contentious part of the toll road is 90km of new road to be built between Ndwalane and Ntafufu and between Lusikisiki and the Mthamvuna River. It would cut through the Pondoland Centre of Endemism and nine high-level bridges over river gorges would have to be built. Molewa rejected 49 appeals against the road. The appellants argued that the public participation process was inadequate. But in motivating her decision the minister said she was satisfied that the process had gone beyond legal requirements. In considering the environmental impact assessment (EIA), however, Molewa said she was aware that there were communities along the Wild Coast who might be significantly affected by the construction of the road and who were not consulted. She ordered that their concerns be noted and agreement be reached between them and Sanral. Opponents say this should have been handled during the public participation process. "This has put communities' rights at risk," said Cullinan. Molewa said fears about biodiversity loss would be countered by the "wide-ranging" mitigation measures used. She dismissed an appeal to upgrade the existing road, saying that it was not viable. The green light for the road also called up the ghost of mining in the region. Cullinan believed that miners would now apply for a new mining licence for the Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project. Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu withdrew a mining licence granted to Australian company Mineral Commodities and its South African subsidiary, Transworld Energy and Minerals, in June. Cullinan said the road would make mining economically viable. Regarding the mining, Molewa said: "It cannot be expected of the department of environmental affairs to base decisions on potential future developments on the information generated by the EIA for the proposed road." John Clarke, a development consultant on the Wild Coast, was flabbergasted by the decision, saying the mining project would now find renewed enthusiasm. "There is no doubt in my mind that the mining and the road are linked. This road is economically viable only if it is linked to the mine, and vice versa." Clarke said a lot of money would now have to be spent to fight the road in the high court. "This money was needed for building clinics and upgrading roads," he said. Sanral could not be reached for comment this week. YOLANDI GROENEWALD - Jul 29 2011 http://mg.co.za/article/2011-07-29-outrage-over-n2-approval/

DMR releases Xolobeni report

JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) has released the ‘Holomisa Report’, which advises Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu on the Xolobeni mining right appeal. The mining right was awarded to Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM) in 2008, for the Kwanyana block of mineral sands on the Wild Coast. Although dated March 2010, the report was only released on January 31. The DMR said that the delay in taking a decision on the report was owing to “administrative processes and pressures within the department”.

Wild Coast plans show preference for mining

Click on the map for full size view (1.5Mb) From: www.iol.co.za February 8, 2011 By Ingi Salgado For some time, the state has withheld two pieces of information with significance for mining along the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape. Under much pressure, the government has now released both. Both documents are shocking, but taken together, they paint a cynical picture of a potentially concerted effort to engineer an economically viable dispensation for mining on the Wild Coast running parallel to the planned N2 routewith scant regard for communities and environment.

More hearings on Xolobeni mine scheduled for Feb

By: Christy van der Merwe 26th January 2011 JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – A second task team would be established to hear oral presentations by parties affected by the proposed heavy minerals mine in Xolobeni, which is located on the South African Wild Coast. The hearings would be held at the Department of Mineral Resources’ (DMR’s) Durban regional office from February 16 to February 18. The task team would then make recommendations to Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, on whether or not to uphold the granting of the licence to mine the Kwanyana block of mineral-rich sands near Xolobeni, or to rescind the licence – as per the appeal from certain community members. Australia-based Mineral Resource Commodities, through its South African subsidiary Transworld Energy & Minerals, was granted a licence to mine for titanium-bearing minerals on a portion of the dunes, in December 2008. The Kwanyana block contains some 139-million tons of heavy titanium-producing minerals, including ilmenite, zircon, leucoxene, and rutile. Of the four blocks making up the Xolobeni project area, the Kwanyana block had the largest measured resource.

Latest developments in the Wild Coast Mining and N2 Toll rd saga

  • Posted on: 15 September 2010
  • By: JB
The Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) and Legal Resource Centre (LRC) demands decision from the department “by no later than 28 September 2010”, failing which the matter will be taken to High Court. Social worker John Clarke has provided the following summary of developments, and opinion. Xolobeni Mining  We are still waiting for DG of Mineral Resources, Sandile Nogcina, to announce the outcome of the appeal by the Amadiba Crisis Committee.  It has been over two years since the appeal was lodged. In February this year a special committee was appointed by the DG of Mineral Resources Adv Sandile Nogcina, chaired by ANC MP and President of Contralesa Adv Patekile Holomisa, to consider the appeal and make a recommendation to the Mineral Resources Development Board. The Special Committee has done its job, but are not at liberty to disclose the recommendation they have made to the Minerals Development Board. The attorney handling the matter is Sarah Septhon of LRC, instructing Adv Gilbert Marcus SC and Adv Isabel Goodman. They presented the Special Committee with documentation that, besides containing excellent specialist studies to support their legal argument, included sworn affidavits that attested fraudulent behavior of the mining rights applicants in producing long lists of local residents whose signatures had been forged and many of whom were long deceased, all stating they were in “full agreement with the mining project going ahead”. The ACC were confidently expecting that this deceitful and illegal behavior would have on its own constituted sufficient cause for the Minister to summarily revoke the mining licence. Whatever ambiguities might exist in the legislation governing mining rights (the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act), there is nothing ambiguous about section 47 which empowers the Minister to cancel rights if the applicant has “submitted any inaccurate, incorrect and misleading information…” On instruction from the ACC Sarah has now sent a letter to the Minister demanding a decision in respect of the internal review process “by no later than 28 September 2010”, failing which the matter will be taken to High Court. If the mining rights are upheld by the Minister, the ACC’s legal team is very confident that they will win, even if it has to go all the way to the Constitutional Court, because the community contends that the award of the mining rights is blatantly unconstitutional.  N2 Toll Road  The first N2 Toll Road authorization was set aside in December 2004 by Minister Van Schalkwyk, because of a lack of independence of the EIA consultants.  Rufus Muruma, the executive director of the EIA consultancy Bohlweki and Associates, was found to also be a director of one of the consortium partners, Stewart Scott International, indicating a clear conflict of interests.  It was this fatal flaw which left the Minister with no alternative but set aside the authorization. A new proposal/application was however permitted, provided the requirement for independence of the EIA consultancy was satisfied.  A different firm, CCA Environmental was duly appointed.  They used much of the previous report, including the Social Impact Assessment report, which they deemed to good enough.  The new scoping report was done in 2006 – 2007, the draft EIA in 2008-2009, and the final EIA published in January 2010.   Comments and objections were lodged at the draft stage by the community through their lawyers Cullinan and Associates.  Particular concern was expressed about the lack of detailed information about the proposed route, compensation arrangements, moving of graves, location of access roads underpasses etc.  The Deputy DG of DWEA Joanne Yawitch issued an environmental authorization on 19 April 2010 stipulating various conditions, and inviting objections that the Minister would consider before either endorsing or setting aside the authorization. Objections from several stakeholders were submitted notably;
  • The local Amadiba community who stand to be most significantly affected by the road, and fear that it will render coastal dune mining inevitable.
  • South Coast residents who object to having heavy loaded toll fees that South Coast commuters to Durban will be expected to pay to cross subsidize the construction of the Greenfields section through the Eastern Cape.
  • Many members of Sustaining the Wild Coast objected in their individual capacities to the failure to consider alternative alignments, the overall failure to assess the road impacts in relation to the cumulative impacts of other proposed developments, notably the Xolobeni mining venture, and to poor public participation methods.  
  • Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (Bishop Geoff Davies) objected again to the failure to seriously consider alternative alignments, and to the artificiality of an administrative separation of the EIA procedures from the Intent to toll procedure, which will only ensue after the road is approved.   WESSA and other environmental NGO’s focused on the threat to biodiversity in the Pondoland Centre of Endemism by these developments, in contravention of the Convention of Biological Diversity.    Significantly, the local Amadiba Community are convinced that the N2 Toll Road is ‘carrying a calf’, in that it goes hand in glove with the mining, a proposal which they have already categorically rejected.  They again contracted attorney Cormac Cullinan to lodge their objections, which were largely focused on the concerns about a very poor public consultation process.  They maintain the Public Participation process failed to meet even the very basic requirements in terms of customary law, which requires that all land related matters must be openly discussed at open consultation meetings held under the auspices of the Tribal Authority  at the Tribal Court house or Komkulu  (Great Place).   This never happened, even during the first round EIA Public Participation done by Bohlweki.   In contrast, Cormac did meet with them at the Komkulu, and we arranged to have the proceedings filmed to ensure complete transparency.  A DVD copy was submitted with the objections, together with affidavits from the Queen of the AmaPondo, local residents, and various subject matter specialists arguing that the conclusions and recommendations of the EIA were again fatally flawed, having inter alia failed to take meaningful account of comments and concerns submitted on the scoping report and draft EIA. Sanral lawyers (Bell Dewar and Hall) are apparently trying desperate to counter the objections, which suggest that the confidence SANRAL once had in the EIA report satisfying the legislative requirements was misplaced. The local chief, Lunga Baleni, was approached by one of their consultants asking for him to sign an affidavit stating his retrospective consent – which in itself amounts to a procedural violation. The Dept of Environment tried to exclude the video submission stating that “only written submissions will be entertained”.  They backed down when it was pointed out that many of the affected residents were illiterate and would be seriously prejudiced by the restriction.  Two further issues of major controversy have now come into play, which have major implications as to how the above two controversies will be ultimately resolved. Succession Dispute on Kingship of AmaMpondo The incumbent King of the AmaMpondo, Mpondombini Sigcau, has been deemed by the Commission for Traditional Leadership Claims and Disputes not to be the rightful successor to King Mandlonke who died in 1937 without fathering a male heir.   Legal counsel to the Royal family are flabbergasted by the finding and the next tier AmaPondo Traditional Leadership and other members of the Royal House are currently mobilizing to challenge to the Commission and President Zuma’s endorsement of its findings. Adv Patrick Mtshualana (SC) instructed by Moray Hathorn of Webber Wentzel Attorneys is representing the Royal Family in the matter. Webber Wentzel attorneys have taken on the case on a pro-bono basis because, according to Moray “a gross injustice to my clients appears to have been done, which cannot go unchallenged”.  Given that the incumbent Royal house have vigorously opposed Government plans to impose macro development projects on the AmaMpondo, - notably the Xolobeni Mining, N2 Toll Road and Umzimvubu Dam scheme, - the working assumption is that the Commission has been manipulated by influential people with corrupt political and commercial agendas to subvert the only governance institutions that has consistently and courageously stood up for the constitutional rights of the rural amaPondo residents. Proposed curbs on Media: Several award winning environmental and business journalists have appealed for support in their struggle to prevent the enacting of proposed Media Tribunal and Protection for Information Bills, advocated by the ANC.     Both SWC and the incumbent Royal Family have added their voice to the opposition, because over the ten year struggle, journalists have engaged extensively in the ‘Wild Coast’ debate to highlight contradictions, challenge authoritarian assumptions, help to publicize and uncover coercion, fraud, power mongering, politicking, incompetence, human rights abuses and abuse of power, give a voice to the poor and disenfranchised, and tell the stories and perspectives of those whose lives will be drastically changed by these Macro Development schemes Assessment and analysis: With respect to the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road, instead of SANRAL acting as a state owned and democratically accountable referee to ensure the commercial motives of the Private Sector do not dominate over the common good and claimed “national interest”, it assumed the role of ‘scheme developer’ from the Private Sector Wild Coast Consortium after their supposed ‘unsolicited bid’ was found to be fatally flawed because of vested interests.  Assuming scheme developer status on behalf of a private sector consortium seems at complete variance with the terms of reference one would expect from a state owned institution serving as ‘referee’ to ensure both a fair game between competing commercial enterprises, and above all the non exploitation of those whose money and assets would be called upon to sustain the “game”.    Instead, after Bolwheki was ‘red carded’ for foul play, and the WCC faded with embarrassment from the game, Sanral appeared instead as both player and referee.    Surely the responsible thing to have done after the possible ‘match fixing’ was revealed was to start the whole game over from scratch with a new set of players.    Those who had objected to the first EIA hoped that things would be more transparent the second time round. In fact, as the reality of how rural residents really felt about the N2 Toll road has become more frank, the real interests of SANRAL and their corporate clients became correspondingly opaque.   Vast sums of money have been spent on the new EIA, and while one can sympathize with those dedicated professionals who have worked hard to give sound analysis, the parameters within which their work has been framed appears rigged to achieve an outcome predetermined by remote, faceless and exploitative political and economic interests: interests that will neither serve the AmaMpondo people nor conserve the Wild Coast biodiversity, archeological and cultural heritage.  Likewise with respect to the Xolobeni mining venture, the officials from the  Department of Mineral Resources, supposedly the custodian of mineral wealth held on behalf of all citizens and having a primary constitutional responsibility to promote the interests of historically disadvantaged rural residents whose lives and livelihoods will be irreversibly changed by the mining scheme, continue to act with bias toward the interests of foreign mining entrepreneurs and their blatantly corrupt BEE partners. How the DG of Mineral Resources can continue to entertain the idea of upholding the mining rights beggars belief, because there is incontrovertible evidence that massive fraud has been committed.     Connecting the above dots, a pattern emerges which ought to alarm all who cherish our constitutional democracy– not only those who cherish the Pondoland Wild Coast.    There is no doubt in my mind that the proposed Protection of Information Bill is motivated by fears among some very senior government officials and politicians that blatant conflicts of interests stand to be exposed.    Having engaged with all legitimate stakeholders in the course of my social work intervention on the Wild Coast - from Cabinet ministers to illiterate elderly men like Samson Gampe living sustainable livelihoods from subsistence agriculture -  I believe that both the N2 Toll Road and Xolobeni Mining schemes fall far short of what section 24 of the Bill of Rights states as “justifiable social and economic development”.     The reticence of state stakeholders to be transparent has left me with no other option but to conclude that the interests which are keeping the mining and toll road schemes alive are much the same as those which fuelled the exploitation and injustice of the colonial and apartheid era’s of our history:  the accumulation of power and wealth from mineral extraction at the expense of vulnerable people and fragile eco-systems. Four years ago after the well known human rights attorney Richard Spoor first met with the Amadiba Community he warned that they could expect two well tried and tested strategies used against those who stand in the way of commercially driven corporate entities out to make quick and lucrative profits:  Cooption and/or Subversion.   The Amadiba Community and Royal House have courageously countered the ‘cooption’ tactics by recourse to what Queen Sigcau calls “civil courage” – standing their ground and insisting on their constitutional rights.  Things were beginning to look very promising in terms of local people’s concerns being given a hearing.  But the two recent developments – the proposed media curbs and attempt to depose King Mpondombini – leave me personally feeling that if these two long ‘ladders’-  which have been absolutely crucial to our success -  are removed from the board, the Long Walk to Freedom that Nelson Mandela embarked upon seventy years ago will have to start all over again. In short, while SWC volunteers have gone to extreme lengths to try to achieve resolution to the issues without resort to judicial remedies in court, it seems extremely likely that this is now inevitable. But if we compare the situation we faced in December 2004, when the first proposal for the N2 Toll Road was set aside, with the situation we face today, we are much more confident that the courts have even more compelling grounds to firstly revoke the mining rights and secondly to refer the N2 Wild Coast toll Road proposal back to SANRAL. The feeling on the ground is that, masked behind the Xolobeni mining, N2 Wild Coast Toll road and now traditional leadership challenge, are fundamentally corrupt corporate and political interests. When challenged, in the absence of a constitutionally defensible case, the only advantage that such interests have is deep pockets to fund litigation by attrition. Films on You Tube For those who have access to a fast broadband internet connection we have put films up on YouTube, on a channel called “Icosindaba”, which SWC member John Clarke has set up. There is a very interesting interview with local Induna from the Sigidi Village Mr Samson Gampe, filmed as evidence to substantiate the objections of the Amadiba Residents to the N2 Toll Road proposal http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXaE0VgTgps For the full historical context a three part series called Wild Coast Development, Dreams and Disruptions is also featured, containing footage from 50:50 programs dating as far back as 2003. Seven years of drama has been distilled down to 24 minutes of documentary narrative.
  • Part 1.  Wild Coast Development: Dreams (5 minutes) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVfsvyMszLA
  • Part 2:  Disruptions: Toll Road or ‘Troll’ Road.  (10 minutes) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DalsHKXCTEs
  • Part 3.  Disruptions: Avatar Again! (10 minutes) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TjJelYvwxE Claire Johnston (of Mango Groove fame) and Jeff Maluleke gave permission for us to use tracks from their album Starehe: An African Day, which they recorded to support environmental initiatives. Cartoonist Andy Mason likewise contributed his professional talent in a cartoon strip.
  • ANC outrage at toll roads

    http://www.thestar.co.za/?fSectionId=492&fArticleId=vn20100602145659883C244643 ANC outrage at toll roads 2 June 2010 By Arthi Sanpath and Bheki Mbanjwa Opposition to toll roads in the Durban area is building to tsunami proportions as the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal urged motorists to avoid the new King Shaka International Airport toll. It also said it was flabbergasted at the tolling decisions, including the proposed booths on the N2 just south of Durban. In its most damning criticism yet of the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral), ANC provincial secretary, Sihle Zikalala, said people should use the alternative route (R102) to and from the airport. The party's provincial executive committee this week also said the idea of erecting a toll road near Amanzimtoti was ill-conceived, one that would impact negatively on commuters. It criticised Sanral for not consulting stakeholders such as the eThekwini Municipality and the KwaZulu-Natal government. "The ANC is flabbergasted by Sanral's approach of constructing tollgates without even consulting the people who are affected by such tollgates. The ANC in KZN will continue to engage the national Minister of Transport, S'bu Ndebele, with a view to stopping the construction of the proposed tollgate," Zikalala said.

    Petition submission

    "The only real and sustainable industry that can uplift and feed the communities in the areas of Pondoland and Transkei, is Tourism. All the natural assets are there to be managed correctly. The surest and quickest way to destroy a world renowned wilderness area is to cut a highway through its heart." -Fred Orban For those interested, the attached N2_petition-email.pdf was submitted and officially accepted by the department yesterday. (This "public" version attached herewith has had the email addresses stripped out for obvious reasons.) As at 19 May 2010 - 9:00AM - 1711 people had signed the Petition at www.wildcoast.co.za/ict4d/petition.

    CASABIO Protest

    • Posted on: 16 May 2010
    • By: JB
    CASABio (Collaborative Archive of South African Biodiversity) is an NGO dedicated to the conservation of the earth's species. Their bottom line is: get involved!!! It's one way you CAN help protect our natural heritage. CASABIO have submitted the following protest posters against the destruction of our Pondoland Center of Endemism: Sign the Petition at www.wildcoast.co.za/ict4d/petition before the close of business on Tuesday 18 May 2010!

    TO ALL CONCERNED ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE WILD COAST

    interview with Bishop Geoff Davies about the N2 toll road.Bishop Geoff Davies - 6 May 2010 http://safcei.blogspot.com/2010/05/wild-coast-mining-and-toll-road.html The Wild Coast continues to be under threat from both the application to undertake sand dune mining and the N2 toll highway. The record of decision (ROD) for the N2 toll road was released on 19 April. It is stated that objections need to be made before 19th May. We are asking for an extension to this deadline but we are also told that DEAT is requiring a notice of intention to appeal. We attach this notice. We write now to ask that if you are registered as an Interested and Affected Party (I&AP) and wish to appeal, that you send in this form. Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC) will shortly issue a brief outline regarding our concerns. We believe it best if comments come from a denomination or a congregation or a faith community, though an individual may also object. If you are not registered as an I&AP but wish to object, please do it through SAFCEI. We will include your appeal with ours.

    Petition against the destruction of the Pondoland Center of Endemism

    One step nearer for N2 Wild Coast road

    2010/04/23 Taralyn Bro The Weekend Post THE N2 Wild Coast Toll Road has moved one step closer to becoming a reality after the government this week gave its construction a tentative thumbs-up. The issuing on Monday of a record of decision by the Department of Environmental Affairs authorising construction of the road is the latest in a long line of action – or inaction – around the mega-billion-rand project. Objectors now have less than a month to say why they believe construction should not go ahead. The authorisation has been granted as long as environmental concerns raised in the final environmental impact assessment report – released in December – are heeded. More than 7800 submissions from the public were included in the report, which was started afresh in 2007 by CCA Environmental (Pty) Ltd after the original EIA was shelved in 2004. If approved, the project will extend over roughly 560km between the N2 Gonubie interchange and the N2 Isipingo interchange (south of Durban). Twenty-five new tolls will be built, mostly in KwaZulu-Natal.

    N2 Toll Road: Government Oblivious to Issues

    PRESS RELEASE 12 -04 -2010 N2 TOLL ROAD - GOVERNMENT APPEARS OBLIVIOUS TO THE COMPLEXITY OF REAL ISSUES AT STAKE A recent parliamentary response to questions about the N2 Toll Road, posed to the Minister of Transport, shows the government has a deeply flawed understanding of the broader issues surrounding the N2 Toll road debacle. The Minister’s response suggests a government that is stuck in an inflexible time warp, basing its decisions on outdated, vastly flawed and unsustainable development projects that were conceived of in the early 90's, under scenarios vastly different from the situation that prevails today.

    Benefits of the N2 toll road?

    NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOR WRITTEN REPLY QUESTION NO 743 DATE REPLY SUBMITTED: 30 MARCH 2010 DATE OF PUBLICATION IN INTERNAL QUESTION PAPER: MONDAY, 15 MARCH 2010 (INTERNAL QUESTION PAPER: NO 7 – 2010) Mr G R Morgan (DA) asked the Minister of Transport: (1) Whether the proposed development of the N2 Wild Coast Toll highway is being done in conjunction with a broader spatial planning process for the areas that will be impacted by the road; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details; (2) (a) how will the proposal for the new road benefit the broader development objectives of the area and (b) what are the negative effects of the proposed road in respect of the broader development objectives of the area?

    N2 Toll Road debate reignited!

    Proposed route (Mostly existing road) THE decade-long N2 Wild Coast Tollroad debate was re-ignited this week with the release of a new – and final – environmental impact assessment. Over 7800 submissions from the public were included in the report, which started afresh in 2007 by CCA Environmental (Pty) Ltd after an original EIA was shelved in 2004 when it was found that the “independent” environmental consultants had financial links with companies that hoped to build the road.
    Information: 

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