Xolobeni update: minerals department meets communities

Posted by Laura Grant on August 25, 2008
Posted in Conservation

The department of minerals and energy has decided to hold more meetings with the communities affected by the proposed mining operations in the Xolobeni area of the Wild Coast after the minister’s visit on August 15, reports Mining Weekly. Bheki Khumalo, the department’s spokesman, was quoted in the report as saying, “With a thing like this, you can’t impose it, you have got to get the buy in of the community, you have got to use persuasion, you can’t use force.” He added that “a series of consultations with those groups will continue over the next weeks” .

The minerals department argues that the region is one of the poorest in the country and that the decision to grant the licence to strip mine for heavy minerals was based on the need to lift the area out of poverty. People opposed to the mining argue that ecotourism is a far better alternative for the area, which is described as a biodiversity hotspot. But, in the Mail & Guardian, Jacinto Rocha, the director-general in the department, disputed the idea that ecotourism would attract major investment to the region.

According to a report in Durban’s Sunday Tribune, in her August 15 speech as Xolobeni, Sonjica blamed rich white people for dividing the community on the issue of mining.

But, the Amadiba Crisis Committee, which was formed by community members, say the community had not been properly consulted or informed about the proposed mining. The department of environmental affairs and tourism had voiced concerns over the environmental impact of the mining and there are also reportedly issues around the mining company’s empowerment partner. [The issues are summed up in an opinion piece inBusiness Report.] According to a report in the Daily Dispatch this week, the mining issue has split Xolobeni village into camps that are for and against the mining.

The mining right is scheduled to be signed on October 31. It would appear that at that point affected parties will be able to officially appeal or object to the granting of the mining right, Mining Weekly reports. The department of minerals and energy seems to be determined that the mining should go ahead, however.

Sources: Mining Weekly, Business Report, Mail&Guardian, Daily Dispatch, FM Campus

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