Back to business for Ikwezi Coal Mine in Newcastle, yet no proper consultation regarding social & labour plan implementation

04 October 2018 - On the 1st June 2018 the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) suspended the license of Ikwezi Mine, a coal mine in Newcastle, KwaZulu Natal (KZN). The community of Newcastle had been actively resisting the operation of the mine through a number of interventions, including the following protests, at the KZN Mining Indaba on the 18th May 2018 with memorandum delivered and signed by KZN Regional Manager (Ms. Nqobile Khanyile) and Mining Charter meeting on the 29th May 2018 this day a memorandum handed over and signed by the Minister of Mineral Resources (Mr. Gwede Mantashe).

The DMR directive [note this is the May 2018 Directive] to Ikwezi mine made reference to Section 24 of the South African Constitution which states:

Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being, and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that:

  • prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
  • promote conservation; and
  • secure ecological sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifying economic and social development.

The content of the letter also clearly stated how the mine acted unlawfully by failing to comply with the social and labour plan despite having had the mining rights for six years, and how the mine transgressed the approved environmental management programme by tampering with graves on the farm Kliprand despite committing not to disturb gravesites in the approved document.

The DMR through its Regional Manager in KZN then issued the following order:

As a consequence therefore, I Nqobile Khanyile in my capacity as regional manager: KwaZulu-Natal region an authorized officer in terms of section 91 of the MPRDA having considered the failure to adhere to the provisions of the law, the terms and conditions of the mining rights, hereby give you the holder of the mining right; a written order in terms of section 93, to stop or terminate all mining, mining related activities & all earthworks and to take immediate rectifying steps.

The order elaborates further on what steps the mine needs to take to make corrective measures, and high on the list is the engagement with the community [1]. The DMR has since uplifted their Directive to the mine, and the Ikwezi Coal Mine has since resumed its operations.  The local affected community and groundWork [2] note the following:

“The DMR decided to suspend the mining rights of Ikwezi after the community raised concerns about the operations, and after a visit to see for themselves, the destruction it had caused in the community.  Both the DMR and Ikwezi Coal Mine have a duty to engage with the community to collectively resolve the concerns raised and only after these concerns are correctly addressed should the mine resume its operations”, says Phumulani Hadebe, a community activist, and member of Sisonke Environmental Justice Network.

Today, Hadebe shares a single room dwelling with 17 others because the houses that they were relocated to were of such poor standards that a safety inspection could not be passed on the structures. The mine and DMR also agreed that a better housing and relocation plan was required, but nothing has been done. Instead the Ikwezi coal mine continues to operate in the area.

“The unlawfulness of the mine operation is a direct violation of Section 24 of the Bill of Rights within the South African Constitution.  While the DMR recognises this right – which is positive – it fails to act accordingly. The lack of engagement and poor consultation by both the Ikwezi Coal Mine and DMR towards the affected communities clearly undermines the policy of transparency, accountability, and open democracy”, warns Robby Mokgalaka, groundWork’s Coal Campaigner.   

 

Footnotes:

[1] Order in terms of section 93 (1)(a), (b)(ii) of the mineral and petroleum resources development Act, 2002 (Act 28 of 2002)
[2] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people affected by coal development and on environmental justice and human rights issues.  groundWork’s campaigning focuses on Coal, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health.  groundWork is the South African member of the Earth International. For more information visit www.groundwork.org.za.

Contact:

Phumulani Hadebe Sisonke Environmental Justice Network +27-66-353 1045

Robby Mokgalaka Coal Campaigner groundWork +27-73-774 3362