The Global Environmental Subcommittee Opposing Mining Expansion (GET SOME) acting on behalf of the Community and Wilderness Alliance (CAWA) has been very active this past month in five main areas listed below with more comprehensive information to follow: –
1. Engaging with the four Fuleni communities directly affected by Ibutho Coal’s proposed mine 40meters from the south-eastern boundary of the iMfolozi Wilderness Area;
2. Commenting on the Final Scoping Report (FSR) for the Fuleni coal mine made available on 10 July 2014 by Lizinda Dickson of Naledi Consultants, Pretoria;
3. Responding to other pertinent coal mining issues, viz. commenting on the Zululand Anthracite Colliery (Pty) Ltd: Draft Basic Assessment Report, due on 4 August 2014, and following up on Somkhele’s proposal currently with the Minister of Mineral Resources;
4. Proceeding in the legal forum.
5. Fund-raising for GET’s support for the affected Fuleni communities and the Save Our iMfolozi Wilderness campaign, including legal fees.
We are also still pushing the Avaaz campaign. Currently we have 49 793 signatures. We are still aiming for 100 000 so please sign if you haven’t done so already and urge others to support the campaign to prevent the Fuleni mine.
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Below is more detailed information of GET’s progress to date:
1. Recent engagement with the four affected Fuleni communities
Fuleni Tribal Authority Meeting – 6 August 2014
At the Fuleni Tribal Authority meeting on 17 July 2014, Sifiso Dladla brought to light the anomalies in the legal process that resulted in the Department of Mineral Resources granting Ibutho Coal two prospecting licences for the Fuleni area, dating back to 2008. Sifiso Dladla has been closely associated with GET since 2010 and is one of KZN’s representatives for MACUA, the growing national movement Mining Affected Communities United in Action. As a result of his input, the Indunas called a meeting, on 6 August 2014, with the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB), the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), Ibutho Coal (IC), and GET, in the persons of Sifiso Dladla and Kirsten Youens, our appointed legal representative. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the process followed by IC and DMR in granting prospecting licences that no one at ITB, in Pietermaritzburg, or the affected Fuleni communities knew anything about in June 2014 when they were asked about Ibutho Coal.
The meeting started two hours late because the representatives from Ibutho Coal and ITB arrived late. Ibutho Coal was represented by local director and spokesperson, Thembi Myeni, and the so-called Chairperson. ITB’s Ulundi representative, Mr Sabelo Ndlela, arrived more than two hours late and admitted in the public forum to having negotiations with Ibutho Coal behind closed doors but denied knowing anything about the matter when questioned by Kirsten Youens outside beforehand. ITB’s role is to implement the decisions of Zulu communities and to act in their best interests, and not to strike deals with unknown mining companies without the communities’ input and knowledge. The latter appears to be the case in this instance.
These matters are being pursued by Kirsten Youens, our legal representative, and by the newly elected community representatives who have been mandated to engage on the Fuleni mine issue on behalf of the four affected Fuleni communities. After the meeting, several people from the communities and these representatives approached Sifiso and Kirsten to request access to relevant information pertaining to the law and to request continued support from GET and MACUA.
2. GET’s Comments on the Final Scoping Report (FSR)
Roger Porter, our environmental specialist, has compiled numerous comments on the FSR and concerns and serious omissions that should have been identified during the scoping phase in order to be addressed in the EIA. These comments will be submitted shortly to the the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, KZN and to the consultants. They will also be made available on our website: http://saveourwilderness.org/index.php/
GET, CAWA and MACUA are particularly concerned about the FSR’s disregard for the local Fuleni communities and assumptions that their current way of life and land use has little value. The report describes broad municipal areas not the demography, health, municipal services, housing, energy, incomes, specific to the affected Fuleni communities. Matters of concern to the affected communities such as: displacement of people, schools, clinics, loss of agricultural lands (grazing and crop lands), post mining land capability that would support a rural economy, loss of homesteads, loss / alteration of infrastructure, social destabilization, impacts on health particularly residents with asthma and other respiratory illnesses¸ crime and security, prostitution, road accidents, loss or damage to sacred sites (e.g. graves), have been ignored.
Graham Muller and Associates, were responsible for the heavily criticized and seriously flawed Feasibility Study for the Busingatha Cable Way.
Herewith the link to Jonathon Newman’s report challenging Graham Muller & Associate’s inadequate feasibility study.
The link below provides comments submitted in December 2013 by the African Conservation Trust (ACT), Vertical Endeavour (EV) and the Wilderness Action Group (WAG) on the poor and questionable community consultation that was done:
See also the statement released by the AmaZizi in December 2013 stating categorically that Amazizi Royal family was not consulted. They and the community elders state clearly that they do not want the cableway:
GET is of the opinion that it is totally unacceptable to employ a consultant with such a poor track record to be part of the specialist team for such a critically important EIA.
3. Responding to other pertinent coal mining issues:
3.1 Comments on the Zululand Anthracite Colliery (Pty) Ltd: Draft Basic Assessment Report, due on 4 August 2014
GET, CAWA and MACUA, through Kirsten Youens, our legal representative, sent a letter to the Departments of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, on 4 August 2014, contesting the response of the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs to the following unauthorised activities that commenced at ZAC mine over an 8 year period without environmental authorisation:-
– Transformation of land and vegetation clearance for shaft access and storage facilities at Ngwabe, Deep E-Block and Western Extension shafts.
– Construction of access roads to Ngwabe, Deep E-Block and Western Extension shafts.
– Storage of coal at the Deep E-Block and Western Extension shafts.
– Storage of coal at the Nqoloti Siding, for which an Atmospheric Emissions License (AEL) is required.
The manner in which DAEA addressed the illegalities raises serious questions and concerns about the capability of the Department to exercise its duties and responsibilities. In terms of Section 24G of NEMA, ZAC received a meagre administrative fine of R497 000 for the commencement of these unlawful activities and a basic assessment report was requested in a verbal telephone discussion with the DAEA Assessing Officer.
GET strongly argue that the fine and request for rectification is a travesty of justice given the extent of the illegal activities over such a lengthy period. We also argued that the message being sent out by the Department is that non-compliance with environmental legislation is easier, quicker and cheaper than compliance with the legislation.
GET also drew attention to the incompetence of the authorities that casts serious doubts on the ability of the Department to make important decisions like the granting of prospecting and mining licences. It is extremely concerning that the Department was unable to monitor compliance of ZAC, situated prominently on the western boundary of the iMfolozi wilderness area. The mine has the potential to affect and damage the livelihoods of rural communities and permanently destroy sensitive areas high in biodiversity of national and international value and importance.
The owners of ZAC are not an insignificant of inexperienced mining company, who might argue they acted out of ignorance, but Rio Tinto Jersey Ltd, one of the largest mining companies in the world. Rio Tinto owns 74% of ZAC and continues to operate it through ownership of Riversdale Mining/Riversdale Proprietary. Furthermore, when the deal to sell ZAC to Forbes Manhattan Coal (FMC), was recently cancelled, ZAC/Riversdale/Rio Tinto benefitted with ZAR 19 million from the cancellation of the sale. ZAC was able to buy redemption for its contraventions for less than half a million! Add to this the profits from these unauthorised operations over eight years and it’s not a bad deal!
3.2 The Expansion of Somkhele
Somkhele’s proposal for to open up an additional 8 open cast coal pits along the eastern border of HiP is currently with the Minister of Mineral Resources. When Somkhele started its operations in 2008, it was with the prediction and promise that is would operate for 20 years. One is now looking at a mine operating on the outskirts of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park for 50 years.
GET is concerned that Ibutho Coal has a similar expansion strategy for Fuleni, especially if the price of anthracite remains high. Their plans are to start with the most lucrative deposits, close to the boundary fence of the iMfolozi Wilderness area, and focus their EIA on only four villages, without disclosing their long term expansion plans that will ultimately impact on many more of the villages falling within the designated 14000Ha mining area.
4. Proceeding in the legal forum
GET legal representative, Kirsten Youens, is seeking legal counsel regarding various serious omissions in the administrative processes followed by Ibutho Coal and the Department of Mineral Resources. The exact route we are following remains confidential at this stage.
5. Fund-raising for GET SOME
Notwithstanding that most of the professional members of our team, including our specialists and our legal representative, provide their services pro bono, we do have operating costs and we do pay remuneration to a few member of the GET Subcommittee. We also anticipate that any court application that may have to be brought will be very costly and so we need to start building up a substantial litigation fund. Our monthly operational and project costs are an estimated R25 000 to R30 000 per month until the end of the year. This includes exchange visits between communities affected by mining. To date we have received generous donations of R40 000 from The Wilderness Foundation-SA and an anonymous donor; R25 000 from the Kathleen Hastie Charitable Trust; R20 000 from the Magqubu Ntombela Foundation; and R10 000 from WILD-USA and Uzavolo Trust. A BIG thank you for this invaluable support.
Please check our website to read what we have achieved since 1 May 2014 and if you would like to make a donation for internet bank transfers please visit our Donations page: http://saveourwilderness.org/index.php/donations/
GET is in the process of setting up an on-line card donation facility. Once it is active we invite you to pledge your support by making a contribution to GET.