Aussie company threatens 'biblical smiting' in ongoing Cape row
Burning tyres, guards shooting at helicopters and a chairman raining down fiery biblical injunctions on the local community - things have gone from bad to B-grade Hollywood at the troubled Tormin mine near Vredendal in the Western Cape.
Its Australian owner, Mineral Commodities, has been granted rights to mine mineral sands along a remote section of South Africa's coast - and has plans to mine offshore sands as well.
And while local residents rally against the mine's alleged wrongdoings, the company's executive chairman, Mark Caruso, has turned to scripture to admonish his opponents.
In an e-mail to local stakeholders last month, he threatened to "rain down vengeance" on anybody who opposed him.
Caruso quoted the entire biblical passage made famous by a pair of assassins in the Quentin Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction.
"From time to time I have sought the Bible for understanding and perhaps I can direct you to Ezekiel 25.17," Caruso wrote, before giving the full verse, which includes the lines: "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."
Elsewhere in his e-mail he invites his detractors to continue their "campaign" against the mine: "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."
Some who have seen the mail say it illustrates the bullying tone the mine has adopted since opening amid great fanfare last year, in a ceremony attended by then mining minister Susan Shabangu.
Caruso declined to comment on the hostile tone of his e-mail.
Mineral Commodities is involved in another highly controversial project, at Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape, where its plan to mine a pristine dune belt has divided the community.
This week the Sunday Times visited the Vredendal area and established that:
• Mineral Commodities is accused of collapsing a section of coast near Vredendal where it opened a large offshore sand mining plant just two years ago. Aerial photographs appear to show evidence of cliff subsidence adjacent to the plant, which is 30km north of Vredendal. The mine claims the damage was caused by a storm;
• The company is refusing to allow the local municipality to inspect its coastal plant, which sits on municipal land;
• Relations between mine management and staff have nose-dived since a strike in September, which culminated in several arrests and mine security allegedly firing on a helicopter hovering near the plant. Police investigated a charge against general manager Gary Thompson. Strikers were demanding an end to what they said were unfair labour practices;
• Earlier this year the Department of Environmental Affairs alerted mine management to several mining permit contraventions, including mining in no-go areas and the use of unauthorised roads. The department instructed the mine's management to appoint an external auditor to compile a report on compliance, or the lack thereof; and
• Despite these contraventions, the Department of Mineral Resources has approved the mine's application for a prospecting licence to mine further along the coast and out to sea.
Environmental affairs this week referred queries to the Department of Mineral Resources, which in turn referred queries to its regional manager, who did not respond.
Earlier this year, the matter reached the attention of Cosatu's Tony Ehrenreich, who wrote a stinging letter to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, appealing for an investigation into "apartheid-era" violations at the Tormin mine.
Several Vredendal residents, including municipal officials, told the Sunday Times this week that they were disappointed in the mine, which had promised so much - and which employs about 300 people.
Former employee John van der Westhuizen said: "The community said they don't want a Marikana situation here. But if he [Thompson] remains here ... there will be tension. They need to treat people properly."
Caruso declined to respond to specific questions.
He said the company had invested R500-million in mine development and generated "in excess of R500-million annually in export revenue and direct investment in the community through use of 100% South African service providers".
Source: Times Live
Source: Independent OnlineJuly 14 2015 at 07:49am
By Tony Carnie
Durban - A senior government minister said work on the controversial N2 Wild Coast toll road would start in September next year – but has given no indication whether Durban motorists would still have to pay the lion’s share of funding a new road through the neighbouring Eastern Cape.
Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti said in a media release on Friday: “We have made a decision. What we want to know now is where we are going to relocate people who have to make way for the road … we are left with 13 months before construction starts.”
However, plans to finance a new 80km section of the N2 along the remote Wild Coast by tolling motorists in Durban and on the South Coast have been opposed strongly by the eThekwini Municipality, the KZN provincial government and a coalition of large industries in South Durban.
The eThekwini Municipality repeated its opposition on Monday to a plan that would involve tolling up to 57 000 Durban motorists daily to cross-subsidise parts of the Wild Coast route.
Commenting on Nkwinti’s statement on Monday, the municipality’s communications head, Tozi Mthethwa, said: “The council resolution on this issue still stands. The resolution indicates that (the) council does not support any more tollgates within the metro region and this resolution has not been rescinded.”
Nkwinti, speaking last week in his capacity as chairman of the presidential infrastructure co-ordinating committee that is overseeing 18 strategic infrastructure projects across the country, made the announcement after a “public consultation meeting” at Bizana on Thursday.
Acknowledging that representatives of some Pondo communities remained opposed to the toll road and had launched high court action to stop the road, he said: “If court processes against the construction of the toll road persist, the project will start in 2017.”
His statement is the latest in a series of mixed messages from the government and the Sanral roads agency about a project that has been stalled in the starting blocks for more than a decade.
The original proposal was rejected in 2004 by former Environment and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, who ruled that the first environmental impact assessment (EIA) lacked independence because of its financial links to a private toll road consortium.
Following a second EIA, the toll road was approved by the Department of Environmental Affairs in 2010, but has been stalled since then following legal appeals by the Amadiba coastal community and other parties.
The South Durban Business Coalition also launched legal action to block the toll road after studies by transport consultant Gavin Maasdorp suggested that at least 31% of the total toll fees for the Wild Coast route would be collected from Durban commuters and businesses via the proposed Isipingo toll plaza.
Maasdorp said these Wild Coast toll fees excluded several additional mainline and ramp plazas proposed elsewhere on the South Coast.
It is understood that last October, just days before the business coalition challenge was due to go to court, Sanral gave an undertaking that there would be no new tolling on the N2 in KZN south of Durban. On that basis the matter was removed from the court roll.
Members of the Amadiba Tribal Authority are also challenging the toll plan in the high court, arguing that the toll road is being bulldozed through against their wishes.
The Amadiba Crisis Committee said in a statement on Monday that Nkwinti had deliberately excluded opponents of the toll road from the latest “consultation process” held in Bizana last week.
“No one here has been consulted on your plans, Minister Nkwinti. We have long been demanding answers, but with no response from the government or Sanral’s chief rascal, Nazir Alli.”
Crisis committee spokeswoman Nonhle Mbutuma said: “We will not move for mining or for the toll road.
“Sanral argues that this area is one of the poorest in the country … How can we be poor when we have the land. We grow maize, sweet potatoes, terro yams, potatoes, spinach, onions, carrots, lemons, guavas and we sell some of it to the market.
“We eat fish and we eat eggs and chicken. We have cattle for weddings and traditional rituals. We have goats for ceremonies. We are not a part of the ‘one out of four South Africans who go hungry to bed’. We have a life,” said Mbutuma, arguing that the proposed N2 toll road was intended to support plans by an Australian company to mine titanium and other minerals along the Wild Coast.
Nkwinti’s office did not respond to requests on Monday for clarity on whether the revised funding proposals had been finalised for the toll plan.
Sanral spokesman Vusi Mona said on Monday: “As you may be aware, the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road is part of the 18 strategic integrated projects overseen by the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Committee (PICC) – hence the pronouncement by Minister Gugile Nkwinti who chairs the south-eastern node and corridor development.
“The KZN part of the project has been put on ice until the funding issue has been resolved by the PICC.”
04 MAY 2015 02:06 (SOUTH AFRICA)
SOURCE: DAILY MAVERICK
There is a lovely stream that bubbles and trickles its way down through the Amadiba chieftainship on the Pondoland Wild Coast to feed the Kwanyana River, which flows into a coastal estuary that is lovely beyond any singing of it (with apologies to Alan Paton). The Amadiba call it “Rholobeni” but the subtle pronunciation and spelling was beyond Colonial settlers, so on maps it is rendered “Xolobeni”. The stream has imparted its name to a store and nearby school which overlooks a beautiful panorama of green hills and blue sea with expanses of ochre red dunes in between, along the coast. Do a Google image search on the word “Xolobeni” today and an array of pictures present themselves that do not match up to the stream, store or school, but to protest action against mining. That is because a Perth-based mining entrepreneur, Mark Victor Caruso, chose to name his venture to mine the ochre red dune dunes that can be seen in many of the pictures, the Xolobeni Mineral Sands project. The windswept dunes contain some nine million tons of ilmenite, source of the space-age mineral titanium.
Three weeks ago Environmental Impact Assessment consultants sent by Caruso faced a difficult challenge to consult with residents of the six rural village neighbourhoods community (Luphithini, Mnyameni, Mtolani, Mdatya Mpindweni and Nyavini) about the latest mining rights application that he had lodged (see thereport). The meeting did not last long and the team, led by EIA consultant Pieter Badenhorst, was told not to come back.
Last Wednesday, on 29 April 2015, confident that since they had the authority of the Amadiba chief Lunga Baleni to back them up, Badenhorst returned with a larger team, who travelled in a convoy led by Caruso’s local agent and community ‘fixer’, Zamile Qunya to gather data for the EIA, their difficulty increased. Soon after the convoy had entered the Amadiba Tribal area, word travelled faster than their convoy and by the time they had reached turnoff to Xolobeni, the consultants were confronted by a barricade of logs and brushwood on the road, manned by an ever-growing group of angry residents.
Believing that opposition to the mining proposal had been orchestrated by outsiders and was confined to a small minority of “just one village”, one of the team began to realise that Qunya had greatly exaggerated his influence and that although Chief Lunga Baleni might have had formal powers, he had forsaken his authority and respect. The betrayal of the chief is symbolised by his acceptance of a Toyota Double Cab 4x4, paid for by Caruso’s mining company MRC Ltd., and offset from a loan of R14 million that he had provided to his BEE partner Blue Bantry Investments Pty Ltd., of which Qunya is a founder director.
When more local residents arrived to reinforce the barricade and stiffen the protest, the consultants decided to retreat before things got even nastier.
Even leading members of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, a structure formed in 2007 to oppose the first mining rights application by MRC, were surprised by the militancy shown.
Interventions are now underway to ensure the situation does not escalate into the archetypal scenario that fictional films like Blood Diamond and Avatar portray. Or, worse still, the real scenarios that occurred 55 years ago during the Mpondo Uprising, and three years ago at Marikana.
(Ironically, Blood Diamond was filmed in the Amadiba area in 2006, with the Mzamba estuary dressed up to look like an alluvial diamond mine in Sierra Leone. It is an even greater irony that it was in this in this very area that in 1957 a kindling conflict commenced over land rights and the use and misuse of natural resources.)
Among the Xolobeni Google search images, there is a picture of an old man holding a knobkierie alongside a young woman. The old man is ‘Bhalasheleni’ Mthanjelwa Mpotomela Mthwa, one of the Indunas (traditional councillors) who preside at Imbizos held every Thursday at the Umgungdlovu Komkhulu (Tribal court room). The young woman is Nonhle Mbuthuma, whose story is told in the documentary film The Shore Break, and making a deep impression on international audiences.
Until his recent death Bhalasheleni represented the residents of the Mtolane village neighbourhood. He died on 11 April and his body was laid to rest on 18 April 2015, in the family grave at Mtolane village, overlooking the Xolobeni mineral sands. Had the local residents not stopped the convoy, the Badenhorst and his team would have passed close to his homestead and seen his verdant crop fields and livestock grazing among the coastal dunes.
The historical memory of residents like Nonhle, who will have to make way if Caruso’s mining scheme ever materialises, has been kept alive and fresh for at least five decades by brave and principled elders like Bhalasheleni who survived the Pondo Uprising. It still casts a long shadow on South African history.
Professor William Beinart, a specialist on Mpondo history, reports his interview with a local resident, Leonard Mdingi, telling of the first spark of the uprising:
Badenhorst ought to have known this. Four weeks ago I gave him a copy of a book I have written which relates that history, The Promise of Justice. Yet it appears he chose to believe Qunya and Lunga Baleni reassurances, risking the repeat of a violent episode of history.
How might that now be avoided?
It would be prudent for Caruso, Badenhorst and other stakeholders to also read what the Crown Princess of the amaMpondo, Princess Wezizwe Sigcau, said in a recent address to the World Alliance for Religion and Peace, to issue a stern warning to MRC that their investors will lose their money if they fail to respect the environmental rights of the Amadiba.
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 theWild 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 Energy Mineral Resources (Pty) Ltd. They face formidable opposition by the 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 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 Induna’s(headmen) for the Umgungundlovu tribal substructure.Crisis Committee, which included the well-respected
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. Umgungundlovu Komkhulu?”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
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 theCrisis 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 ofto 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 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.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
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 without having to go to court. That has never happened before.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
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 residents assemble at Komkhulu. Picture by Mzamo Dlamini.
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17 March 2015 DMR Application Ref: EC10025MR
To: Owner and tenant
APPLICATION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL AUTHORISATION, WASTE MANAGEMENT LICENSE, AIR EMISSIONS LICENSE AND INTEGRATED WATER USE LICENCE FOR THE PROPOSED XOLOBENI MINERAL SANDS PROJECT, EASTERN CAPE PROVINCE
INVITATION TO REGISTER AS AN INTERESTED AND AFFECTED PARTY AND TO PROVIDE COMMENT ON THE EIA SCOPING REPORT
Transworld Energy and Minerals Resources (SA) (Pty) Limited (TEM) has applied for mining rights for the Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project in the Xolobeni Region of the Eastern Cape. As part of an application for a Mining Right in terms of the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002 (Act No. 28 of 2002), and the 2014 NEMA Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, TEM is seeking Environmental Authorisation, Waste Management License (WML), Air Emissions License (AEL) and Integrated Water Use License (IWULA). A Scoping and Environmental Impact Assessment Process (S&EIA) is being undertaken. The applications for WML, AEL and IWULA will be submitted shortly.
Situated in the Eastern Cape Province; approximately 250 km south west of Durban and approximately 60 km south east of Mbizana and 30 km southwest of Port Edward, the proposed development will involve the mining and processing of various heavy minerals for export. In addition to the mine infrastructure, the proposed mine development will also require supporting infrastructure such as internal roads, power lines, and water abstraction and distribution infrastructure.
Pieter Badenhorst Professional Services has been appointed as the independent environmental practitioner (EAP) responsible for the applications for an Environmental Authorisation, WML, AEL and IWULA.
Your name was received from a previous public participation process. Please note that this does NOT qualify as registering as an I&AP for this application. If you would wish to register as an I&AP for this current project, please submit your name, postal address, email address as well as preferred method of communication and interest in the manner to the EAP. In the future, communications will only be distributed to the registered I&APs.
The Scoping Report for the EIA is available for public review and comment from 18 March 2015 to 18 April 2015. The document is available from the following website: pbpscon.co.za as well as from the following public places:
Public Place and venues
Port Edward Library
East London Library
Mthatha Public Library
Naledi High School, Xolobeni Tribal Area
Xolobeni Pre-school, Amadiba Area (Also venue for meeting 8:00 to 11:00 on 8 April 2015)
Mgungundlovu sub-tribal authority (Amadiba area); (Also venue for meeting 13:00 to 16:00 on 8 April 2015).
Mthayise Junior Secondary School
Amadiba area: (Also venue for meeting 8:00 to 11:00 on 9 April 2015)
Amadiba Tribal Authority; (Also venue for meeting 13:00 to 16:00 on 9 April 2015)
Bizana Youth Centre (in Bizana Town; (Also venue for meeting 10:00 to 13:00 on 10 April 2015)
The following listed activities are included as part of the application:
9, 10, 11 , 1213, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 24, 25, 27, 28, 30, 45, 46, 48, 50, 56
Reg 984 Listing Notice 2:
6, 15, 16,17, 19, 21, 28
Reg 985 Listing Notice 3:
2, 4, 10, 12 18
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
<b>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.</b>
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.
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;
<li>The local Amadiba community who stand to be most significantly affected by the road, and fear that it will render coastal dune mining inevitable.
<li>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.
<li>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.
<li>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.
<b>Succession Dispute on Kingship of AmaMpondo</b>
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.
<b>Proposed curbs on Media:</b>
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
<b>Assessment and analysis:</b>
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.
<b>Films on You Tube</b>
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.