By Tony Carnie
The company that aspires to mine several million tons of coal from the borderline of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi wilderness zone has denied that identity stickers placed on the front doors of several rural homes mean that those people will definitely have to move out.
Responding to concerns from several residents of the Fuleni area who found white “demolition stickers” stuck to their homes last week, Ibutho Coal spokesman Johan van der Berg said the stickers were to indicate that these households were part of a new social impact survey and possible “resettlement strategy” linked to the mining plan.
“The stickers placed are only to identify households that have been surveyed, and are in no way an indication whether a household would need to relocate. This will only be possible to indicate once the social impact assessment is complete,” he said in response to written questions.
Although Ibutho has promised the mine will create “more than 300 jobs”, Van der Berg declined The Mercury’s invitation to disclose approximately how many people stood to lose their homes, grazing land, farm plots and other infrastructure if Ibutho succeeded in its plan to dig six opencast mining pits in the vicinity of the Ocilwane, Nthuthunga, Novunula, eFuyeni and eMakhwezini communities.
A recent scoping report by Ibutho’s environmental consultants indicates that there are at least 2 333 households located within Ibutho’s mining rights lease area south of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, but it does not specify how many face relocation. Previous community surveys suggest an average family size of more than eight people a household, suggesting that more than 18 600 people could be affected by the mining plan during its 35-year lifespan.
On the question of resettlement of people, livestock and infrastructure, Ibutho says: “Affected families must be provided with housing to the same or better standard, that the company must facilitate the physical move and that a relocation allowance be negotiated with the directly affected families, after consultation with land owners, traditional leadership, municipality and provincial government to establish alternative housing options.”
All houses in the vicinity of the proposed mine would also be surveyed in advance before any mine blasting, and any future damage would be compensated for if home owners could prove the damage was because of blasting by the mine.
This article appeared in the Mercury on Tuesday 29 April, 2015