KZN diamond rush: Anxious wait for KwaHlathi community as experts collect samples for analysis
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PRELIMINARY assessments have started to determine whether the stones found in KwaHlathi, outside Ladysmith, are diamonds.
This comes after a government delegation visited the mine on Tuesday, as per the directive by the Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe and KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Sihle Zikalala.
Scores of people from across the province and the country have joined the villagers in what has been dubbed the “diamond rush”. According to the community, multitudes of people have been mining since Tuesday last week, with some spending the night at the site.
On Tuesday, a delegation comprised of KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Ravi Pillay, the mayor of the Alfred Duma Local Municipality, Vincent Madlala, officials from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), traditional leadership, the SAPS and representatives of other statutory, and regulatory bodies went to the site.
A team of experts from the DMRE – including officials from the South African Diamonds and Precious Metals Regulator, the Council for Geoscience, and Mintek – conducted an inspection of the site.
According to the government, after a preliminary analysis of the stones on-site, a detailed analysis would be conducted on the samples made available to the team. Conclusive results were expected within a period not exceeding 30 days.
The DMRE would make an announcement as soon as the test results are concluded and made available, said the government.
Mosa Mabuza, chief executive of the Council for Geoscience, said their job was to do a preliminary assessment to determine whether the stones found were diamonds.
Speaking to The Mercury exclusively, Mabuza said based on the information from the assessments, they would then advise the government accordingly.
“If there are no diamonds, we will come back and tell people. But if they are, we will advise the government on how they should be mined in an organised and legitimised extraction manner. We owe this community proper development and answers.
“We hope for the best for these people and for the country as a whole. Also, science cannot change what is here, we can only confirm what it is,” he said.
Mabuza was given a few stones by the community for assessment. He said he couldn’t draw any conclusion about the stones on-site, as proper research was required.
“I wouldn’t want to create unnecessary hype based on what I saw. We all have to be responsible in such cases. We have to do the analysis to give a proper report. It is our intention to make a report available to the KwaHlathi community and the country.”
The delegation also raised concerns about the possible damage the mining activities would have on to the environment.
“It is also concerning that there is no adherence to Covid-19 protocols. Therefore, we appeal to members of the public not to go to the area. We further appeal to those at the site to vacate until all processes are concluded. A drive to engage and educate members of the public on mining regulations will be undertaken,” read the statement.
KwaHlathi traditional leader, iNkosi Sphiwe Kunene, said he was worried about the mining activities as it would have a long-term impact on the land.
“What worries me is that they just dig, go to another spot and dig again. They do not close the previous hole and there are many holes here now. We have livestock and they could easily fall into that pit and break their legs or never get out,” he said.
He said that as a leader, he was not happy about the mining activities as it didn’t follow any government mining regulations, adding that he had appealed to the community to stop digging and urged them to wait for the department to finish with the research processes.
“Unfortunately my hands are tied because I’m just by myself. I am relying on the police to help in controlling this mob, if they continue to dig even after the report has shown that it is not diamonds. I can’t do anything because some of these people are from other areas and I don’t have powers over them,” he said.
He said if the stones are not diamonds, he would seek government intervention to fence off the area to stop the damage to the land.
Pillay said apart from the stones that have been mined by the community, the government would also conduct a study about the land.
“There are ways in which we have to get organised. As the chief has alluded to countless times, what is happening here is not right because of various reasons,” he said.