Xolobeni mine

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Xolobeni mine
Location
Eastern Cape
CountrySouth Africa
Production
ProductsTitanium

The Xolobeni mine is a proposed titanium mine in South Africa. A project by Transworld, initially a wholly owned subsidiary of the Australian corporation Mineral Commodities (MRC), the mine would be one of the largest mines of its kind in South Africa.[1] The proposed mine is located in the Wild Coast region of the Eastern Cape[1] and has reserves amounting to 348.7 million tonnes of ore grading 5% titanium.[1] MRC has since pulled out of the project, citing "threats to the peace and harmony of the local Xolobeni community", and in September 2016 the Minister of Mineral Resources announced an 18-month moratorium on mining in the Xolobeni area.[2]

Reception[edit]

The proposed mine has met fierce resistance from the local community, who formed the Amadiba Crisis Committee in 2007.[3][4] Local Amadiba chief, Lunga Baleni, who accepted a 4x4 vehicle paid for by the mining company, is supportive of the proposed mine, but most residents are in opposition. In April 2015, a delegation attempting to perform an environmental impact assessment on behalf of the mining company were forced to leave the area after residents protested.[4]

The Company has reported that only three families will need to be relocated if the mine is proposed, of which all will be compensated if the mine is to proceed.[5] This has squashed previous claims that two hundred homes would be displaced by the mine.[6]

The Company released a report of the most recent community engagement meeting at Xolobeni,[7] which found that 498 questions/concerns were raised by an estimated 200 people.[7] The majority of the residents (77%) supported the mine, or were happy to support the local infrastructure upgrades that would result because of the mine.[7] Only 10% of residents opposed the mine in principle alone, thus leaving 20 people in total currently opposing the mine.[7] 5% of the residents were undecided and 8% asked for more information.[7]

The local community formed the Amadiba Crisis Committee in 2007.[3][4]

The local Amadiba chief, Lunga Baleni is supportive of the proposed mine.[6] Some residents, opposing the mine, have accused the company of bribing him with money and a vehicle, claims which Baleni denies.[6]

In February 2016, Chief Baleni announced that a water drilling programme[8] would commence, and it was alleged that Baleni stated force would be used if the community attempted to stop the drilling. It was reported that over 200 residents waited on the announced day to stop the drillers, who failed to arrive.[9] The Company released their intentions for the drilling programme on their website, which stated that the programme would "have left 3 fully equipped boreholes with fresh drinkable water for the community" however due to the threats of violence, the Company cancelled the programme.[8]

In July 2016, MRC withdrew from the project, stating that "In light of the ongoing violence and threats to the peace and harmony of the local Xolobeni community, the company accepts that the future viability of the Xolobeni Project should be managed by stakeholders and organisations exclusively owned by South African people." MRC planned to divest its interest to its black economic empowerment partner Keysha Investments. [10]

In September 2016, the Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane announced an 18-month moratorium on mining in the Xolobeni area, citing the “significant social disintegration and highly volatile nature of the current situation in the area”. The application by Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources SA was frozen, and no new applications will be permitted.[2]

Environmental impact assessment[edit]

In order for the Xolobeni project to move forward, as per South African law, and as administered by the Department of Mineral Resources, the Company must engage an Independent Environmental Consultant to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment.[11]

The Company has stated[12] that the EIA forms an important part of their Mining Right Application,[13] and is an important source of information for the residents of the local community, where the mining is proposed.[14] Without the EIA, local residents are unable to make a fully informed decision of the pros and cons of the project, thus are not empowered with the necessary information to make the decision to support the proposed mineral sand mine based on the merits of the project versus the consequences of mining to their community.

In April 2015, a delegation attempting to perform an environmental impact assessment on behalf of the mining company were forced to leave the area after residents protested.[4][8] The Company has stated that "blocking this site access ultimately results in robbing the local residents of their right to make informed decisions on their future, and the future of generations to come".[15]

Social and economic impacts[edit]

The benefits to the local and regional economy from the construction and operational phase of the Xolobeni Project will be significant especially in an area where, according to the Department of Local Government,[16] 71.5% of the economically active population (i.e. 15 – 65 years of age) are unemployed and 88% of households in the region live below the minimum poverty level. The Amadiba Community totals 10,000, and is one of the most impoverished in South Africa.

The Company has stated it believes the Xolobeni project "has the capacity to be the catalyst for social transformation of one of South Africa’s poorest communities."[17]

Violence in the area[edit]

In December 2015, villagers returning from a mass-meeting opposing the mine, and in defence of a local headwoman who had been intimidated, were attacked by a gang wielding knobkerries and pangas. Four men were arrested for their part in the attack.[18]

In March 2016,[19] the chairman of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, Sikhosiphi 'Bazooka' Rhadebe, was assassinated.[20] Rhadebe's son and wife were also seriously injured during the assassination.[20] Rhadebe had allegedly warned of police involvement in the violence against mine opponents, and shortly before his death it has been alleged that he discovered a hit list of mine opponents, on which his name was first.[20] The police have not been able to verify the allegation of a "hit list" as true. Another committee member, Nonhle Mbuthuma, claimed that Rhadebe was murdered by men claiming to be police officers, and in a vehicle with a rotating blue light.[20]

The mining Company sent condolences to the family.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Xolobeni Mineral Sands". mncom.com.au. 2012. Archived from the original on May 2, 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-22.
  2. ^ a b Ashleigh Furlong. "Minister freezes mining in Xolobeni". GroundUp. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Xolobeni will have to do battle again and again against titanium miners". SWC. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d "Wild Coast mining conflict: Xolobeni escalates". DailyMaverick. 4 May 2015. Retrieved 5 May 2015.
  5. ^ "Xolobeni FAQs". Mineral Commodities Ltd. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  6. ^ a b c Sosibo, Kwanele (7 May 2015). "Villagers call for chief's head over plan to mine their land". Mail & Guardian.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Community Engagement at Xolobeni". Mineral Commodities Ltd. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  8. ^ a b c "Xolobeni and the Environment". Mineral Commodities Ltd. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  9. ^ "Coastal mining saga a powderkeg". South Coast Herald. 25 February 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  10. ^ "Australian mining company pulls out of Wild Coast mine". GroundUp. 18 July 2016. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  11. ^ "Mining and Environmental Impact Guide" (PDF).
  12. ^ "Xolobeni and the Environment". Mineral Commodities Ltd. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
  13. ^ "Apply for a mining right | South African Government". www.gov.za. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
  14. ^ "Xolobeni and the Environment". Mineral Commodities Ltd. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
  15. ^ "Xolobeni and the Environment". Mineral Commodities Ltd. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
  16. ^ "Setting the Boundaries of a Social Licence for Mining in South Africa: The Xolobeni Mineral Sands Project" (PDF).
  17. ^ "Xolobeni". Mineral Commodities Ltd. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  18. ^ "Anti-miners on the Wild Coast attacked with pangas, knobkerries after mass meeting". Times Live. 1 January 2016. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  19. ^ a b "Company response to recent violence in Xolobeni". Mineral Commodities Ltd. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  20. ^ a b c d "Opponent of Xolobeni titanium mine assassinated". GroundUp. 23 March 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2016.