Xolobeni solidarity march - 20 July 2008

Holiday makers and South Coast Residents are invited to join a Spring Tide Beach March on Sunday 20th July from the Wild Coast Sun resort to Nyameni Estuary, to show their solidarity with the five communities of the Amadiba Tribal Area on the Pondoland Wild Coast who vehemently oppose the dune mining venture.

The next suitable spring low tide will occur on Sunday, 20th July 2008. All are invited to join a solidarity walk confirming our concern about mining, and our support for local eco tourism - starting from the Wild Coast Sun at 7.30am to either the petrified forest at the Mzamba River mouth 4km, or Mlulwane Estuary - 9 km or Mnyamene - 18km (distances are total out and back) and see for yourself just how special our Wild Coast is and just why we must all do everything we can to ensure that it is sustainably conserved for future generations.

Participants need to cater for their own drinks and food for the walk.

SUPPORTING WILD COAST ENDEMIC ECO TOURISM

For further info contact David Halle on: 039 312 2448 or cell: 082 300 4283 or email: marfurn@telkomsa.net

"In response to a complaint lodged last July by local residents alleging that seven of the fundamental human rights enshrined in the South African Constitution had been violated by the mining company and its supporters, the SA Human Rights Commission concluded in a report released in November 2007 that DME and DEAT “were not on the same page with respect to the proposed development”, and that the “overwhelming majority” of the approximately 3000 directly affected local residents “were opposed to the venture”."

For the full article by John Clark: http://www.swc.org.za/update-on-the-current-state-of-play-in-the-wild-co...

Extracts from the article:

"The DEAT report confirmed that a major contradiction existed between DEAT and DME interests, with DEAT advising that “The mining is a short-term economic activity with long-term negative impacts whereas the ecotourism in the area has an unlimited life span. One of the economic activities of the area may not impact negatively on other sustainable activities in the area” and concluding with a strong recommendation that the mining license should not be awarded, given available information."

"What next?
It is rumoured that DME are about to announce their decision this week. If it is positive, not only will it enable SWC and the Amadiba Crisis Committee to finally proceed with the planned court action to convince the High Court to set aside the decision, but perhaps it will also explain why MRC director Gregory Steemson was so eager to buy 200,000 shares at rock bottom prices, hoping for an immediate surge in the share price when the announcement is made.
It is also rumoured that DME have told MRC that they will only approve the application on condition that the block between Sikombe and Kwanyana estuaries is excluded, - effectively halving the area to be mined - and only if MRC ensures more local beneficiation, (i.e. a smelter)."

Full article:
Two years ago the MRC Ltd website spoke of the Xolobeni Mineral Sands venture as “the catalyst for socio-economic development of the impoverished area” and claimed “unanimous support” from the municipal authorities, local residents and even King and Queen of the AmaPondo. It also claimed to be fully supportive of eco-tourism development, maintaining that its mining operations would in fact “rehabilitate the degraded dunes” and stem the silting up of the estuaries “due to poor agricultural practices”.

When the Mining Rights Application was submitted on 30 March last year, MRC proclaimed it a “milestone”. Its share price reached an all time high of 36c, but this was quickly followed by a steady decline as institutional investors started having second thoughts after it became clear that MRC was grossly exaggerating the merits and appeal of the venture, and as media reports began to expose the manipulation, dishonesty and intimidation by mining company employees in their efforts to obtain the manipulated consent of the local residents for the mining scheme.

The MRC share price is currently hovering at around 14c, with the only recent significant trade coming from the purchase of 200 000 shares by Gregory Steemson – who happens to be a non-executive director of MRC, and therefore obliged to disclose personal trade in company shares. The above chart shows MRC’s share price and volumes movement since April 2005 to the present.
DME imposed extremely tight deadlines for the completion of the Environmental Impact Assessment

Report (EIA) and the formulation of a satisfactory Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for mitigating the negative impact of the envisaged 22 year open cast dune mining operation, known as the Xolobeni Mineral Sands venture. Effective processes for meaningful Public Participation were therefore seriously constrained, as the Environmental Consultants, GCS (Pty) Ltd, worked to complete their work before 21st December 2007. It was expected that DME would announce their decision in early January 2008. Contrary to expectations, no announcement was made then, and at the time of writing (1 July 2008) DME was still non-committal.
The following facts help contextualise the current state of affairs.

In response to a complaint lodged last July by local residents alleging that seven of the fundamental human rights enshrined in the South African Constitution had been violated by the mining company and its supporters, the SA Human Rights Commission concluded in a report released in November 2007 that DME and DEAT “were not on the same page with respect to the proposed development”, and that the “overwhelming majority” of the approximately 3000 directly affected local residents “were opposed to the venture”.

The HRC asked for documentation from these departments, as well as from the Department of Land Affairs, to convince them that all relevant authorities had been in full compliance with the relevant statutes: the Mineral and Petroleum Resources’ Development Act (MPDRA), the National Environmental Managment Act (NEMA), and the Interim Protection of Indigenous Land Rights Act (IPILRA). The departments only responded after the HRC was forced to issue the respective ministers with a subpoena compelling them to comply.

The three departments eventually complied on 20th April 2008, hours before the ministerial subpoena hearing was due to start. The hearing was adjourned to give the HRC time to study the 11th hour submission by DME. The SAHRC refused our request for access to the documentation submitted by the relevant departments, and it is therefore not known what the departments are claiming with respect to compliance with legislation.

Shortly before the HRC Ministerial Subpoena hearing, an application was made under the provisions of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), for a copy of DEAT’s evaluation of the EIA/EMP reports, which it had compiled as a summation of comments received from a range of environmental and tourism specialist officials employed in government service at both the Eastern Cape Provincial and the National level. The DEAT report confirmed that a major contradiction existed between DEAT and DME interests, with DEAT advising that “The mining is a short-term economic activity with long-term negative impacts whereas the ecotourism in the area has an unlimited life span. One of the economic activities of the area may not impact negatively on other sustainable activities in the area” and concluding with a strong recommendation that the mining license should not be awarded, given available information.

It subsequently emerged that the DEAT evaluation report was not in fact submitted to DME before the deadline of 21st December 2007 due to “an administrative error that occurred during the festive season, and could in all likelihood be attributed to the fact that we were at the time functioning on a skeleton structure”, according to the Acting DG at the time, Ms Nosipho Jezile (now recently confirmed as DG of DEAT).

After being questioned by opposition spokesperson on Environmental Affairs Gareth Morgan, the Ms Jezile apologised for this, and assured parliament that “failure to submit on time was due to an administrative error. Whilst the response was signed by the Acting Chief Director: Environmental Impact Management and uploaded on the departmental electronic document management system on 20 December 2007 for the Director General’s consideration, senior management was not alerted to the urgency of the matter due to staff being away over the festive season. Follow-up was only made after the due date.

In light of previous refusal by the DME to extend time frames or to accept late comments, the comments were only submitted to DME in March after verbal agreement was reached with the DME in this regard.
Corrective measures have however been put in place to prevent such an error from re-occurring.”

What next?

It is rumoured that DME are about to announce their decision this week. If it is positive, not only will it enable SWC and the Amadiba Crisis Committee to finally proceed with the planned court action to convince the High Court to set aside the decision, but perhaps it will also explain why MRC director Gregory Steemson was so eager to buy 200,000 shares at rock bottom prices, hoping for an immediate surge in the share price when the announcement is made.
It is also rumoured that DME have told MRC that they will only approve the application on condition that the block between Sikombe and Kwanyana estuaries is excluded, - effectively halving the area to be mined - and only if MRC ensures more local beneficiation, (i.e. a smelter).

If this information is correct, it suggests that DME may be looking to find a compromise in response to DEAT’s strong objections, notably to the perceived threats to the Mkambati and Mntentu eco-tourism activities.
Moreover, it is likely that by having DME insist that MRC also include the construction of a smelter in the Eastern Cape in their plans (as originally envisaged), the financial feasibility of the controversial proposal to construct a new high speed Toll Road along the coast will be enhanced. Trucking the concentrate to a site in the Eastern Cape (with East London the most likely) will lead to a mutually reinforcing synergy between the interests of the construction, trucking and mining interests.
For such corporate enterprises sustainability means the continuing financial and commercial sustainability, by maximising the profitable return on investment as quickly as possible.

In contrast Sustaining the Wild Coast pleads for a far sighted vision that, while recognising the advantages of a system of free markets, seeks to optimise benefits to all stakeholders in a restorative economy that serves life, rather than the reverse.
“Sustainability is an economic state where the demands placed upon the environment by people and commerce can be met without reducing the capacity of the environment to provide for future generations. It can also be expressed in the simple terms of an economic golden rule for the restorative economy: Leave the world better than you found it, take no more than you need, try not to harm life or the environment, make amends if you do.” ~Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce

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