Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe has cancelled his visit to Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape on Thursday in his third bid to convince the local residents to allow an Australian company to mine on their ancestral land.

Mantashe said the cancellation was due to heavy rainfall that led to flooding and caused damage to roads.

While he blames the heavy rains, the local residents have welcomed the cancellation and claim that Mantashe got “cold feet” following various attempts by them to stop his plans.

The residents' opposition to the mining venture was also emboldened by the Pretoria High Court in November which found that Mantashe does not have rights to give a mining permit to the Australian company without the consent of the residents and the Umgungundlovu Council - their traditional house.

But despite cancelling his visit - the Mineral Resources department still appears optimistic about their plan to mine on the land.

Announcing the cancellation, Mantashe’s office told residents that his visit would have been part of the government’s ongoing engagement with the community about an integrated and sustainable development approach for the area.

Mantashe said his visit was to look at improving road and transport infrastructure, agriculture and fisheries, tourism and mining.

“It is unfortunate that such a critical visit had to be postponed due to inadequate road infrastructure. This situation highlights the importance of government engaging the Xolobeni community on the need for development in the area,” Mantashe said.

The Mineral Resources department said it was in that context that they had always insisted that “it was false” to limit the debate on the need for development in Xolobeni to mining only.

According to the department, a decision on whether mining can occur or not was yet to be taken.

Political Bureau