Wild Coast mining moratorium welcome, but questions remain

  • Published:

18 June 2017

Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC) notes with interest the announcement of an 18-month moratorium on the Wild Coast mining.

This notice gazetted by Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane blocks “any mining or prospecting applications on the approved mine area for the next 18 months, or until the minister is satisfied that the community conflict and unrest has been resolved”. It applies to the Xolobeni area in Bizana in the Eastern Cape and includes a halt on processing the existing application of Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources SA (Pty) Ltd (TEM).

Nine months ago the minister warned of a moratorium, following an “outreach meeting” at Xolobeni on 19 July 2016 which ended in chaos after the Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources Godfrey Oliphant and the then Deputy Minister of Police Maggie Sotyu failed dismally to win the confidence of the large majority of the Amadiba community.

See this interview with the community’s attorney Richard Spoor that explains the context.

After the August 2016 local government elections Minister Zwane invited interested and affected parties to comment on his intention to declare an 18-month moratorium. A number of civil society organisations including the Amadiba Crisis Committee, SWC, the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) and others duly did so. SWC submitted a 17-page memorandum, which proposed a permanent moratorium on the mining.

It has taken nine months for Minister Zwane to finally get around to acting on his intention. SWC welcomes the moratorium but cautions against it being regarded as a long-term victory.

SWC is concerned that the 18-month moratorium may be about more than ostensibly wishing to ensure the well-being of the affected communities. We cannot ignore the fact that this moratorium comes at a time when SANRAL has already started preparations for constructing two massive bridges for the N2 toll road, a road that would serve the proposed mine well. We also cannot trust the mining company TEM, who may see advantage in the moratorium.

The moratorium includes commissioning independent social specialists to investigate the causes of the conflict between pro- and anti-mining groups and identify possible solutions. However, while this task may on paper be useful it should be noted that there is a wealth of existing research and reports on this issue from the last decade, much of which has already been submitted to the authorities. What new information such a specialist study would uncover is not clear.

Furthermore, community members have in the recent past prevented social studies from taking place as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, as such studies for too long now have been associated with attempts to mine, and members do not see the point of additional specialist studies when they have been making their position on the mining very clear for years – ‘no mining on our land’.

“The community has said many times that we don’t want the mining, so what difference is sending specialists going to make?” asks Nonhle Mbuthuma of the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC). “Last year Eastern Cape DMR officials visited Komkulu and heard what the community had to say. So they already know. This moratorium is just a way for them to make time to strategise how to get the mining through at Xolobeni.”

It would seem that if the DMR was genuine about listening to the concerns of the community over the last decade and taking into account all the research that has already been conducted, they would not be calling for such new research, and perhaps would even have put an end to any attempted mining at Xolobeni a long time ago.

The recent controversial unveiling of the new national Mining Charter gives further reason for concern, as it is essentially aimed at intensifying mining in the country and calls for “sustainable growth and development” instead of utilising the language of the Constitution which includes in Section 24 “ecologically sustainable development” and “justifiable social and economic development”.

There are robust alternatives to mining for development at Xolobeni that the communities have made clear over a number of years and in which, guided by these desires, government action can play a positive role in supporting. In tandem with this moratorium on mining, SWC is therefore encouraged to see the announcement this week by the minister of Environmental Affairs, Edwa Molewa, of the successful attainment of World Biosphere Heritage Status for our spectacular Garden Route. We would again like to invite the Minister to immediately seek the same designation for the unique Pondoland Centre of Endemism and even more spectacular Wild Coast region of Pondoland between Port St Johns and Port Edward, in consultation with the people who live there for their input and inclusion of the unique local culture, crafted as it is through centuries of sustaining livelihoods in this unique landscape. Such designation would help publicise the multi-faceted, untapped tourism opportunities which local people are seeking to develop.


For further information: Nonhle Mbuthuma: 076 359 2982. Spokesperson, Amadiba Crisis Committee. John Clarke: 083 608 0944 Spokesperson, Sustaining the Wild Coast.