Johannesburg - Blocked roads, burning tyres and residents pitched against police have been the order of the past three days in Kagiso, on the West Rand, as residents protest against opencast mining in the area.
The community are furious at gold-mining activity taking place on empty land close to Kagiso Drive, claiming that blasting is cracking walls, shattering windows and shaking TV sets off their stands.
They claim blasting takes place throughout the day and night, with trucks driving up and down the streets. And they are angry because they claim they were not consulted over the opening of an open-cast mine on a former gold mine.
The protests turned violent at the weekend, with police and residents exchanging rubber bullets and stones after roads were blocked and taxis and other vehicles banned from entering the area.
A vehicle belonging to the Mogale municipality was stoned and an attempt made to burn the ward councillor’s home. By Sunday, an armed police contingency surrounded her house to protect her.
Councillor Kgomotso Mangole told The Star she has been working hard with the Mogale council and the mayor to try to resolve the problem of the open-cast mine.
“I have had meetings with the community and the Mintails mining managers, and they agreed to compensate residents whose homes have been damaged by the blasting. But so far only two claims have been submitted.
“People are now saying that they did not know they had to hand in their claims,” she said.
Mangole said she had also called on the Department of Mineral Affairs to intervene, and a meeting has been set up for tomorrow to discuss the issue. “I don’t know why the community are angry with me. They are saying I agreed to allow the mining to happen, which I did not. I do not have such power,” she said.
Community leaders Tumi Molefe and Ashley Mnisi said they felt they had been misled by the mine’s owners.
“They told us they have a letter of permission to mine from the council, but are refusing to show it to us. We have been waiting for two months,” Molefe said.
Besides walls cracking, the dust from the blasting is causing health hazards for children, especially those with asthma.
“We have people complaining and having to visit doctors daily. No arrangements have been made to stop the dust. The sand which has been dug up is piled in the open in mounds near our homes. We are affected every time there is a wind storm,” he said.
Mintails says on its website it’s involved with a gold reclamation operation on the West Rand and is mining discarded residue.
The Star was unable to get comment last night.
Meanwhile, throughout the afternoon it was a tense game of police versus residents.
Groups of residents were challenging police by throwing stones, and police retaliated every half-hour or so by driving through the barricades at high speed, in order to chase residents away when they got too close to the councillor’s house.
Rubber bullets were fired from time to time, which led to another round of stone-throwing and the revving of the heavy vehicles aiming straight at the protesters, who fled.
Residents later put huge blocks of concrete in the middle of the road, which the Nyala armoured police vehicles could not drive over, and the police had to get out and remove them.