Plans to expand the Somkhele open cast coal mine, virtually to the border of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park’s wilderness area, were recently released by Jarmi Steyn, Tendele Coal Mining (Pty) Ltd’s Chief Operating Officer. Tendele Coal Mining (Pty) Ltd is wholly owned by JSE listed Petmin. Petmin’s success over the years has often been ascribed to Ian Cockerill, who is well-known in the mining sector and presents himself as a conservationist. This latest move by Petmin does nothing to support this image.
The new site will be only 500 metres from the boundary of the Wilderness area and will inevitably result in the deproclamation of the historic Imfolozi Wilderness area, the first wilderness to be declared in Africa almost 60 years ago through the efforts of the late Dr Ian Player. He is also credited with spearheading Operation Rhino in the 1950s to save the southern White Rhino from the brink of extinction. The expansion of the mine into the Esiyambeni community will also devastate the lives of many families who rely on farming for their survival.
The Save Our Wilderness campaign has been engaged in a protracted battle since 2014 to thwart the proposed Fuleni mine application by Ibutho Coal on the south-eastern border of iMfolozi. An extensive body of information and research has been generated that makes it clear that mining in proximity to the Wilderness area will have a devastating effect on the Park.
The Park is the foremost employer of sustainable jobs in the area and a major income generator for KZN and SA. In marked contrast, fossil fuel extraction, in particular coal mining, is a major source of pollution and directly linked to climate change, which our economy continues to ignore. Externalised costs of contaminated water, air and soils, catastrophic droughts, floods, rising temperatures, cyclones, are borne by the public, especially vulnerable communities, like Somkhele, and future generations.
The first CEO, Stuart Comline, and all subsequent CEOs including the previous CEO, Johan Gloy, have given the firm undertaking that Somkhele mine would move away from the Park in the future. These promises clearly mean nothing to the current management of Tendele Coal Mining and to Petmin’s directors. The Somkhele communities have long complained that the mine breaks its promises and tells lies, and that its operations are characterised by agreements and undertakings that are disregarded by the next management team that appears on the scene. So breaking promises is clearly nothing new or unfamiliar to Tendele.
The iMfolozi Community and Wilderness Alliance (ICWA) joins with Ezemvelo’s CEO, Dr David Mabunda, in his call to Tendele to abort its plans to mine at Esiyambeni.
Individuals and organisations wanting to write directly to Jarmi Steyn to make her aware of the public’s response to Somkhele’s expansion plan can use the following form or send an email to email@example.com Please cc. firstname.lastname@example.org