JOHANNESBURG – The Xolobeni community on the Wild Coast, Eastern Cape, has slammed Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe for allegedly pushing a referendum on titanium mining in the area's pristine sand dunes.
Mantashe this week postponed his visit to the volatile area where an Australian company planned to mine titanium to “allow stakeholders more time to prepare”.
Nonhle Mbuthuma, the spokesperson for the Amadiba Crisis Committee, accused Mantashe and his department of imposing the mine despite September's court ruling that gave residents the right to say no to mining.
She said Mantashe had called the meeting despite 500 people deciding there was no further need to engage with the department on the Xolobeni Mining Project at a meeting at Umgugnundlovu Great Place last month.
“Mantashe's insistence on meeting the community despite the court ruling is an indication that he wants a referendum on the mine.
“A referendum will lead to bloodshed. The court was clear that we, the community, must lead the process of how we want our area to be developed not mining,” said Mbuthuma.
Justice Annali Basson in September ruled that Mantashe must obtain consent from the community before granting Australian companies, Mineral Resources Commodities and Transworld Energy, mining licences.
Basson's ruling was described as a game-changer for the right of communities across South Africa to be properly consulted before mining rights are issued.
Mantashe this week criticised Richard Spoor, the lawyer for the Amadiba Crisis Committee, for a media statement which he said was “unfortunate and disingenuous”.
Early on Tuesday, the Amadiba Crisis Committee released a statement calling for the meeting to be cancelled, charging that residents from neighbouring villages would be bused in to sign attendance registers.
“If Minister Mantashe isn't pleased with the judgment he can appeal,” the Crisis Committee said in the statement.
Said Mantashe in response: “This is highly irresponsible and can only serve to fuel tension in the community.”
Xolobeni, about 76km from the KwaZulu-Natal border with the Eastern Cape, has been deeply divided over the mining of titanium for 15 years.
Henk Smith of Henk Smith & Associates said Mantashe had failed to provide certainty following the court ruling.