Within minutes of Lizinda Dickson of Naledi Development sending out the notification yesterday (3 March 20130) of the availability of the amended Fuleni Scoping Report, interested and affected parties were picking holes in it and finding disturbing anomalies and misrepresentations.
“Our team of experts started scrutinizing the report as soon as they received the notification and immediately started finding glaring factual errors and anomalies that require explanation from the consultants and the authorities,” said Sheila Berry of the Global Environmental Trust, who has been spearheading the Save Our Wilderness campaign since its launch on 1 May 2014.
Providing some background, GET’s lawyer, Kirsten Youens, explains: “Last year Ibutho Coal published their Final Scoping Report for public comment. We filed an objection and called on the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs to reject it as it failed to fulfil the requirements of the National Environmental Management Act’s EIA regulations. The Department duly rejected the Scoping Report and the environmental consultants began the process anew. We will definitely be challenging the newly released Final Scoping Report as well and some of the processes it documents.”
Youens adds: “Some people hold the mistaken view that there is no opportunity to make comment on a revised scoping report. In terms of the Earthlife Africa vs Eskom case, we are entitled to see the revised Scoping Report and comment on it, which we will be doing with the Fuleni report.”
GET is particularly concerned about the limited experience and expertise within Jacana’s specialist team when it comes to the sensitivity and uniqueness of the iMfolozi wilderness area, the first wilderness area declared in Africa, and the public participation process and the poor consultation, particularly with respect to the affected Fuleni communities.
It appears Ibutho Coal submitted a fresh application for a mining right as the previous mining right has expired. GET’s attorneys are in the process of compiling our response which will be filed with the Department in due course.
GET trustee, Sinegugu Zukulu, who was a central figure in the successful campaign to stop mining of the Xolobeni dunes on the Wild Coast, also expressed concern about the contents of the report: “My worry is that while the report mentions the need to consult communities further, the consultation processes do not necessarily require the consultants to consider seriously the views of the affected communities. It is often a mere box ticking exercise for mining companies to be granted the green light.”
The affected Fuleni communities are vehemently opposed to the mine. At a recent GET meeting, Sifiso Dladla, GET’s representative in Fuleni and for the growing national movement Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) reported the surprising news that Fuyeni village is also likely to be directly affected by the mine. This has not been previously mentioned by Ibutho Coal or the consultants.
Dladla went on to describe how certain councillors will not allow meetings to be held in schools or church halls. He laughs: “And so we meet under a big tree. I am happy this is happening because it indicates to me that we are making progress and that Ibutho Coal is scared of us. Whatever tactics they try we will be one step ahead of them. The women of the community are also raising their voices against the mine. They are strong after the field visit and international workshop organised by WoMin (Women Against Mining) in Somkhele and Fuleni in January.”
Sheila Berry cautioned that it would be wise for those pushing for the approval of this project to follow correct procedures because of the very high profile of this case that has stirred international interest: “We are carefully scrutinising the public participation process and all documents produced by Jacana Consultants and passed by the authorities.”
The legendary Dr Ian Player, who died on 30 November 2014, fought for the establishment of the iMfolozi Wilderness Area, in 1958. GET and the Community and Wilderness Alliance are determined to ensure it remains sacrosanct for the benefit of future generations. GET is fighting this campaign to protect the wilderness and in, so doing, honour this remarkable man. The Minister of the Environment, Honourable Edna Molewa, personally attended his Memorial, held in Hilton in January, and read a tribute to Ian Player from the President of SA, Jacob Zuma.
It seems unthinkable that with all these acknowledgements of Ian Player’s achievements, the Minister of Mineral Affairs renewed the lapsed mining application instead of putting a stop to a mine that will destroy a place that carries such rich history and heritage. The iMfolozi was set aside 110 years ago as a sanctuary for white rhinos thought to be extinct. It also holds great cultural value for the Zulu people as this was the place where King Shaka grew to manhood.
We have plenty of open cast coal mines polluting our planet. We only have one iMfolozi wilderness area – sanctuary for nature, rhinos and the human spirit and soul.