Public hearings to resolve dispute on Wild Coast mining

September 30, 2008

By Samantha Enslin-Payne and Slindile Khanyile

Durban - The department of minerals and energy will hold public hearings on controversial mining on the Wild Coast after it decided recently to delay the issuing of the certificate that would have enabled Mineral Resource Commodities (MRC) and local subsidiary Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM) to begin mining in the area next month.

Bheki Khumalo, the spokesperson for the department of minerals and energy, said yesterday that the intention to grant the mining licence remained, but the implementation had been delayed.

At the time of going to press MRC, which is listed on the Australian stock exchange, had yet to inform shareholders of the delay. The company's local representatives could not be reached for comment.

The certificate giving MRC the right to proceed with the mining, which would be issued by the regional manager of the department, was due to be issued next month.

But in light of an appeal from the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) on the decision to grant the licence, the department has now adopted a cautious approach.

Khumalo said it was considered "prudent and pragmatic to deal with the appeal first before giving the certificate".

A minerals advisory board would hold public hearings to give the mining firm and those who opposed the project the opportunity to argue their cases, he said.

"Once this has happened, the board would make a recommendation to the minister."

The controversial mining project, if it proceeds, will result in sand dunes along the Wild Coast being mined for titanium.

This action has been opposed on the grounds that people living in the area will lose access to grazing and ancestral land, and that endemic plant species will be destroyed.

Sarah Sephton, an attorney at the LRC, said the group was pleased with the decision and was looking forward to the minister putting a permanent stop to the proposed mining.

Sephton said: "We are now waiting for the department [of minerals and energy] to tell us when they will hold the [public] hearings. But before the hearings take place, the department must give us reasons for granting the [mining] licence.

"The company [TEM] must comment on our appeal and then we will reply to that."

Sephton said that if, after the appeal process, the minister upheld the decision to permit the mining, then the matter would be challenged.


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