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09 Oct 2008 06:00
Controversial plans to mine titanium at Xolobeni on a pristine stretch of the Wild Coast have been put on hold. The decision came after Minister of Minerals and Energy Buyelwa Sonjica declared that more consultation with the community is needed.
The mining licence, originally landed in August by Australian mining company Mineral Resources Commodities (MRC) and its South African partner Transworld Minerals and Energy Resources, will now be awarded at the end of this month, when it was initially scheduled to come into effect.
The mining plan has drawn flak from environmentalists and social workers who believe it will cause damage to the environment and to the community.
Critics question whether the mining investment, touted as giving the region a R1,4-billion boost, will benefit those most in need.
The plan has opened deep divisions in the community, with many members bitterly opposed to it.
After the award of the licence the Grahamstown-based Legal Resources Centre (LRC), led by activist lawyer Richard Spoor, lodged an appeal with the department on behalf of the AmaDiba Crisis Committee and the Sustaining the Wild Coast campaign.
The lawyers argued that there had been inadequate consultation with community leaders in terms of the Mining and Petroleum Resources Development Act.
Sonjica has since visited the Wild Coast to meet disgruntled groups. After her trip she decided to postpone awarding the licence to the Australians.
The minister’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said that if adequate consultation had not taken place by the end of the month the granting of the licence would be postponed again.
“The licence has not been cancelled,” he said. “It is merely on hold because the minister promised to consult traditional leaders, who were unhappy they were not consulted.”
Ratau said the postponement would also give the department time to respond to the appeal. But he said no definite time had been set for the consultation to take place.
The LRC is not taking the department simply on its word. It said that although it was elated that Ratau’s department had finally acknowledged that there were problems with the consultation, it would not back down and was keeping all its options open.
“A real chance still exists that Sonjica will turn down our appeal,” it said.
Read more from Yolandi Groenewald
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