Community’s platinum mine bid delayed

2010-11-26 13:32

An urgent application by a rural Limpopo community to stop the Mogalakwena Platinum Mine from dumping further waste into a tailings dam was today postponed indefinitely.

The application was made by the Sekuruwe community against Potgietersrust Platinums Ltd (PPL) in the Pretoria High Court in Pretoria.

The company operated the mine on properties adjacent to the farm Blinkwater. The matter was postponed to allow the community to file further papers.

The community is seeking an interim interdict to stop the mine from continuing with further construction of the tailings dam on their land and from pumping more waste into the dam unless they had obtained the required authorisations.

It has also launched a review application to set aside the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform’s decision to grant PPL a lease over a substantial portion of the community’s land on Blinkwater.

The community maintains the dumping of waste in the dam on Blinkwater would cause irreversible consequences if it was not stopped.

It said the land would be buried under millions of tons of mine waste that would render it sterile and totally unusable for agriculture, grazing or any other purpose.

They said it would make it impossible forever for them to reclaim their ancestral lands and provide for the subsistence of their families from the land.

The community insists that the mine had not obtained environmental authorisation for the construction of the tailings dam on the banks of the Blinkwater wetland and was dumping the waste illegally – claims PPL denied.

Anglo Platinum’s Programme Manager Etienne Espag, said in an affidavit it was wholly improper for an application seeking urgent interdictory relief to speculate whether the mine had complied with its statutory obligations and to provide facts which will establish if the community had a case or not.

The mine contended it did not require any environmental authorisation in terms of the National Environmental Management Act for its mining activities or activities incidental thereto.

The mine argued the tailings dam was not situated on the edge of a wetland, was not a barrier dam and was not used to store water, but was used to ensure that water in the tailings evaporated off or drained through the dam.

It said environmental impact assessment regulations were not applicable to the construction of the dam, because the mine waste was not water, sewerage or storm water.

The mine insisted that the location of the dam had been approved by both the department of mineral resources and the department of water affairs through the granting of mining rights and a water use licence.

According to papers filed on behalf of the applicants, the Sekuruwe community and their neighbours have often been in the news in the past few years, with Anglo Platinum being compelled to apologise to the community for removing their graves without due regard to traditional custom or procedure.

The relocation of about 10 000 residents of the neighbouring villages of Ga-Puka and Ga-Sekhaolel was also criticised by the SA Human Rights Commission.

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