PICS: Dannhauser communities say illegal mining is destroying their homes

By Sakhiseni Nxumalo Time of article published Mar 13, 2020

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Durban - The angry and frustrated community of Dannhauser is calling on the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to investigate mining operations situated right in their backyards.

The community of Ntenteka, a rural area, claim that the Ikhwezi Coal Mine’s operations are damaging their houses.

They survive mainly on subsistence farming, and are frustrated with the mine, which they claim has over the years demolished homes and even dug up graves during mining operations.

According to the residents, the mine started operating last year despite being set up in 2011.

The Ngwenya family, who have been living in the area since 1977, are situated only a few metres away from the mine.

Ernest Ngwenya, 86, said that he had exhausted all his options in trying to get the municipality and the mine to relocate them, but their plea had fallen on the deaf ears.

Ngwenya, who lives with his 81-year-old wife Cynthia and nine of their relatives, said their house could collapse at any time due to cracks that had formed in the walls.

“At least twice a week there is an explosion, and that is the main reason our houses are cracking and the ceiling boards are collapsing.

“I am old, and the smoke that comes out of the mine is not healthy for me. We did complain to the mine, municipality and the department about all of this, but nothing is being done,” said Ngenywa.

The Mercury visited the Ngwenya family home, and the mining machines could be heard operating.

Ngenywa said the explosions were so loud they shook the house. Every year we plant crops. But this year we could not because there was no space. I had a lot of livestock, but they, too, have died.

“I suspect it is the grass being affected by some chemicals from the mine that killed them.

“The mine is not treating us well. We had our graveyard where the mine is currently operating, yet we have never got a cent or any form of compensation,” he said.

He added that they had been told that they would be relocated in 2015 before the mine started operating, but nothing had happened.

Khaladi Ntshingila said the black dust from the mine had resulted in her 75-year-old mother becoming ill and going to hospital regularly.

“The mine must close. We don’t have a positive story to tell about them since they have come here. The least the mine could do is relocate us. We cannot have such toxic operations in our backyard,” said an emotional Nsthingila.

The community held a public meeting with Corruption Watch last week, where they raised their concerns about the mining operations. This included allegations of corruption, nepotism and unemployment.

Community leader Lucky Shabalala claimed they had been excluded from any benefits relating to the mine, yet they were the most affected.

Shabalala alleged that when they tried to engage with the mine, they were ignored.

“One of the main issues is that the community is not benefiting in any way from the mine. It’s also not a nice thing to have black dust from the coal, and noise and dust from trucks passing by your gate every day. The department needs to investigate this mine and its operation,” said Shabalala.

The Dannhauser Municipality did not respond to questions.

Ikwezi Mining chief operating officer Freddie Strydom said they were aware of the community’s complaints as they had been raised in a memorandum submitted by a group of protesters on February18, 2020.

Strydom said there were four families who lived in close proximity to the mine, who had been engaged with and who were currently in a consultation process.

“To date, lkwezi has built and completed houses for three families. We are in the process of installing electricity in the houses. We will also be giving access to water to these families upon approval of our applications by the Amajuba District Municipality. Consultation with the one family is ongoing, and discussions will be finalised soon,” he said.

He denied that the displacement of any family was on the cards and said families had agreed to a smooth relocation process, which was currently under way.

Strydom said all blasting operations carried out at the mine were conducted under strict precautionary methods of monitoring the effects of ground vibration on nearby houses.

He said that so far, the monitoring had proven that the blasting operations had no direct link to the cracking of the houses, and were well within the legal requirements.

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