Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe is pictured addressing scores of community members in Xolobeni, Bizana, in the Eastern Cape about titanium mining prospects in the area. Photo: Gwede Mantashe/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG – Residents of Xolobeni on the Wild Coast have lambasted Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe’s plan to conduct a survey on whether the titanium mining of pristine sand dunes should go ahead in the area.

Nonhle Mbuthuma, a spokesperson for the Amadiba Crisis Committee, which is opposed to mining in the area, said yesterday that Mantashe’s survey was unheard of in South Africa.

“It has no basis in law. It has nothing to do with the Pretoria court decision on November 22 that granted the community the right to “full and informed consent,” she said.

The high court in North Gauteng in November last year ruled that Mantashe had to obtain prior and informed consent from the Xolobeni community, as the holder of rights on land, prior to granting Australian-owned Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources (TEM) with a mining right in the area.

The community has blocked TEM’s consultants from doing an Environmental Impact Assessment since 2015.

Mantashe said that he had appointed a consultant to conduct an independent survey 
on mining for titanium in the area. 

Mbuthuma said that the survey would be a futile exercise.

“A counting of Yes and No is not a process for building consent on an informed basis,” she said.

Mantashe’s meeting with the Xolobeni residents on Wednesday ended in chaos with police firing stun grenades.

Mbuthuma accused Mantashe of busing in people from as far as villages Nomlacu and Mathwebu, west of Bizana town. 

The Department of Mineral Resources said yesterday that the claims by the residents were unfortunate.  

Departmental spokesperson Ayanda Shezi said the claims that the minister was biased towards the company were baseless. No mining right has been granted in Xolobeni. 

“Should the current applicant not meet the requirements as per the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, including on transformation and social and labour plans, the department will be within its rights to not grant the right,” Shezi said. 

She also said Mantashe was expected to visit the mine’s Western Cape operation next month to understand concerns raised by the community.

Christopher Rutledge, Action Aid’s natural resources manager in South Africa, said the organisation was disappointed in Mantashe.

“The minister is playing games. He is subverting the constitution to a tick-box exercise. 

"When he came in he gave us hope that he was going to change things. He is treating residents like subjects rather than citizens,” said Rutledge.