Locals threaten to close mine if 'they are ignored'

Given Mahlalela

Given Mahlalela

Mpumalanga communities from the tribal settlements of Mawewe, Matsamo and Lugedlane have threatened to disrupt operations at the Bernicorn Coal Mine.

The tribal settlements form part of Mangweni. The mine, situated at Mangweni near Komatipoort, allegedly relies on employees from as far as Witbank and Gauteng to the disadvantage of the locals.

The local communities claim the mine had promised to benefit them and their children when it opened, but has so far failed to deliver.

The call to disrupt operations at the mine comes after the communities within the three tribal authorities accused the mine of neglecting them. The mine's officials allegedly promised to build schools for the communities, but so far only four classrooms have been constructed. The opening of the mine allegedly resulted in sugar-cane farmers being removed from their land to make way for the mine's construction.

"We want to close down this mine because our children are not employed there. Only people from outside our areas are employed there. We thought the mine would play a significant role in the development of our communities, but it has not," said spokesman for the communities John Mhlongo.

Initially, an agreement was allegedly entered into between the mine and the communities that the tribal trusts would own 40percent shares but the residents claim that they own nothing.

"They are operating with an illegitimate licence. Their certificate claims that they have a BEE partner. This would allow them to operate for more than 18 years uninterrupted.

"However, they do not have a BEE partner. Their BEE partner should be the local communities, according to the new mining act," said Mhlongo.

Fanie Peterson, the mine's manager, refused to comment. He referred the media to the mine's chief executive Ruloff Hugo who claimed that the mine never had any agreement with the locals.

"I don't know anything about the involvement of any local community members in our mine. That is why we are under no obligation to undertake any social responsibility programmes," said Hugo.