Monday, 2 May 2016

Yes to Life, No to Mining - Mining on Amadiba Land in South Africa

Yes to Life, No to Mining - Mining on Amadiba Land in South Africa

On the remote, idyllic and ecologically sensitive Wild Coast of South Africa, the local Amadiba community in Mpondoland is bravely standing up against an Australian mining giant trying to pillage their land.

The Xolobeni Empowerment Company (Xolco) is the empowerment partner of the South African TEM company that plans to mine in the area. TEM is a subsidiary of Mineral Resources Commodities (MRC), an Australian listed mining company that has since 2002 been trying to establish an open-cast titanium mine on South Africa's Wild Coast.

In 2002 the grant of an old-order prospecting licence was made, and Xolco was established in 2003. By 2006/7 the Amadiba community came out into outright rejection to mining although in 2008 a full mining licence was granted. This licence was suspended after community opposition and the  licence was withdrawn in 2011 after the community lodged an appeal.
Conflict over mining in the mineral-rich Xolobeni area of the former Transkei has led to the killing of the activists who have been opposed to mining. Community opposition to the mining is centred on the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), a committee consisting of over 300 households and residents living in the area affected by mining. In March 2016 community leader and chairperson of the ACC, Sikhosiphi Rhadebe from Mdatya village on the Wild Coast, was shot dead in what the committee views as an assassination. The ACC had recently lodged an objection to a fresh application to mine by the Australia-based company MRC. The mining company, MRC, denies any involvement, but this is just one incident in a long line of violence and intimidation that has been linked to MRC’s partner organisation in South Africa. The community itself has been abandoned  by local police and South African politicians with vested interests.
The strip mine would churn millions of tons of the Xolobeni sand dunes on the ancestral lands of the Amadiba people with potential massive environmental destruction. The lease area is sizeable – 22km long and 1,5 km wide, covering 2 867 hectares, and is estimated to contain 139 million tonnes of titanium-bearing minerals, including ilmenite, zircon, leucoxene and rutile, mainly used in pigment manufacture. The envisaged US$200-million capital investment would include the construction of a mineral separation plant and smelter and the creation of up to 300 jobs.

An Eastern Cape government study from the mid-2000s raised large questions about the environmental hazards. Water requirements would be high and there was no firm plan to address security of supply, it said, while company documents made little mention of the planned tailings dam and its 'significant' impact. Other concerns were the possible relocation of homesteads, the impact on estuaries, increased road traffic and the effect on 'the sense of place.'  About 200 households face displacement and the farmland on which villagers depend will be devastated. The area is also a proclaimed marine protected area . The Amadiba people believe that eco-tourism and agriculture are real development alternatives and that mining will rule out a tourism trade. This is a more sustainable approach as opposed to mining which not only destroys the environment, but also has a very short-term benefit for the selected few.  
In a ACC statement in response to claims that Xolobeni is one of South Africa’s poorest regions, they wrote 'How can we be poor when we have land? We grow maize, sweet potatoes, taro, potatoes, onions, spinach, carrots, lemons, guava and we sell some of it to the market. We eat fish, eggs and chicken. This agriculture is what should be developed here. It is not falling apart like in many other places in Eastern Cape. We have cattle for weddings and traditional rituals. We have goats for ceremonies. We are NOT a part of the ’one out of four South Africans who go hungry to bed’ We have a life. Poor infrastructure is not poverty.'

Bishop Seoka said: 'The Department of Minerals and Resources have yet to show that it stands for justice and genuine people-centred development instead of get-rich-quick schemes that will destroy the ecology and livelihoods as well as the culture of communities.'

The mining of titanium in Xolobeni against the wishes of a large section of the community, is likely to impact negatively on the ability of people in this area to continue their agricultural activities and improve food security and that it will be to the detriment of the health and well-being of a vulnerable rural community. The mining is targeting an eco-sensitive area of the country and bodes ill in the light of global climate change that also impacts on population health in general and more especially those of vulnerable communities.
 is a documentary film about the threat of mining to Eastern Cape coastal communities.

Stephen Clayton
Croydon Green Party

2 May 2016

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