Mining activists oppose Mantashe's new rules on how mines should relocate communities

Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe has released guidelines explaining processes mining companies should follow before relocating communities.
Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe has released guidelines explaining processes mining companies should follow before relocating communities.
Image: Moeletsi Mabe

A new document that is meant to regulate how mining companies will in future relocate communities where mining operations are going to disrupt their way of life has been shot down by mineral rights community activists.

The mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe this week released the Draft Mine Community Resettlement Guidelines 2019 for public comment. The deadline for submissions is on January 4.

The guidelines demand mining companies to do meaningful consultations with communities if the firms' future mining operations stood to disrupt the lives of the community members to an extent that they need to be relocated.

The resettlement guidelines are also intended "to outline the process and requirements to be complied with by an applicant or a holder of a prospecting right, mining right or mining permit when such application or right will result in physical resettlement of landowners, lawful occupiers, holders of informal and communal land rights, mine communities and host communities, from their land".

“These resettlement guidelines extend to existing prospecting rights, mining rights or mining permits where incremental project expansion will have the effect of displacement or resettlement of landowners, lawful occupiers, holders of informal and communal land rights, mine communities and host communities,” read the document.

The guidelines add that the consultation process would give the communities a chance to “obtain clear, accurate and understandable information about all the impact of the proposed mining activity or implications of a decision on resettlement”.

It states that mining companies will assist with the resettlement by providing financial and related support to affected communities and offer support after resettlement to ensure people’s livelihoods and standards of living are restored.

The companies should also assist with sustained development within the resettled mine community after resettlement

The mining company will bear the costs of the resettlement.

However, the document says should the meaningful consultation, aimed at giving "landowners, lawful occupiers, holders of informal and communal land rights, mine communities and host communities" a chance to comment on the resettlement options, fail to yield desired results, the aggrieved mining company could take the matter to court.

The draft guidelines are, however, already being challenged by non-governmental organisations, especially since President Cyril Ramaphosa recently signed the Traditional and Khoi San Leadership Bill into law.

The BenchMarks Foundation and the Alternative Information and Development Centre believe communities will not have a chance to form part of the meaningful consultations, especially after Ramaphosa recently signed the Traditional and Khoi San Leadership Bill into law.

Critics of the law say it effectively gives traditional leaders the right to sign business deals with corporations on behalf of their subjects without having to seek their consent. 

The BenchMarks Foundation and AIDC also view the resettlement guidelines as the mineral resources department's way of trying to deal with the Xolebeni issue.

The titanium-rich community has for years been at loggerheads with mineral resources department for opposing Australian company Transworld Energy from continuing mining in the Umgungundlovu municipality on the Wild Coast, KwaZulu-Natal.

The community last year won a court case against mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe over mining in the area.

 The judgement said Mantashe lacked lawful authority to grant Transworld Energy a mining right unless the company complies with the Interim Protection of Informal Land Act of 1996. The department is appealing the judgement.

AlDC's senior economist Dr Dick Forslund said though the guidelines would add more red-tape for mining companies, it does not give traditional communities the right to say no to mining activities.

Forslund, who supports the Xolobeni community, was also concerned that the guidelines gave “descendants of colonialists” and traditional communities equal rights when it came to land ownership.

Forslund said giving the two groups the same rights when it came to land ownership was against the spirit of the Interim Protection of Informal Land Act of 1996, which gave traditional communities a superior status than the descendants of colonialists when it came to land ownership.

The BenchMarks director John Capel said a fund should be created to bankroll independent consultants who will fully explain the resettlement details to traditional community members. "You find that when community members are being consulted by mining companies, they end up not fully understanding how a mining deal is going to impact on their lives.

A resettlement by nature has a long-term negative impact on traditional communities. Most of them lose their herd of cattle during the process. I believe that the guidelines should have a clause stating that mining companies should give the affected communities compensation for life," he said.

Capel added that the situation was so bad on the ground that last year more than 600 communities in Limpopo embarked on protest action to voice their anger after they were relocated to make way for mining.

The Minerals Council of SA’s spokesperson Charmane Russell said the organisation would need to study the guidelines and consult with members to understand the possible impact/implications and to get a mandate from members.

She added that resettlement practice was an important issue in the industry and it was likely that  most mining companies will undertake resettlement in line with internationally recognised guidelines, such as those advocated by the International Finance Corporation.

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