Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe on Wednesday announced the commencement of an independent survey in Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape, where the community will decide if controversial mining will proceed in the area.
“On the basis of the outcomes of the survey, we will then take a firm decision on the way forward,” Mantashe said in a statement after meeting with the Xolobeni community.
“If mining goes ahead in Xolobeni, it must be sustainable and coexist with tourism, agriculture and other economic development initiatives.”
The mineral resources department said the survey was in line with one of the outcomes of the judgment in the High Court in Pretoria last year, calling for thorough consultation of the Xolobeni community prior to any granting of a mining right.
If the community says no, there will be no mining, if the community says yes, mining will proceed, the department said in a statement.
The mineral resources department said that the survey will commence in the next few weeks.
“Whichever right-owner is granted the licence to mine must also adhere strictly to the provisions in the [Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act] MPRDA and Mining Charter, including implementation of social and labour plans,” Mantashe said.
The visit was Mantashe’s second meeting with the broader community, which is located in Bizana in the Eastern Cape.
On Tuesday, the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) action group contradicted the statement by Mantashe that he would be visiting the volatile Xolobeni community.
In a statement on Monday, the department of mineral resources had said that during his last meeting with the ACC in November 2018, the ACC had requested Mantashe to come back and meet with the broader community in Xolobeni but this was disputed by the ACC.
The ACC has banned Mantashe from Xolobeni and said he was not welcome in the area as the community has been at loggerheads with his department over a 15-year long battle against the issuing of a mining license to Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM), a subsidiary of Australian mining company MRC.
In November, the High Court in Pretoria ruled that in terms of the interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act, the minister of mineral resources may not grant mining rights without the consent of the community and the people directly affected by that mining right. Mantashe is appealing this ruling.