The Department of Mineral Resources says even though the independent survey it plans to commission into the prospect of mining operations in the Xolobeni community is another detour in the controversial matter, the outcome of that survey will be the final word on the matter.
This comes after a visit to the area in the Eastern Cape by Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe ended with disruptions and a police crackdown on some in attendance.
Those critical of plans to allow mining in Xolobeni called the visit a plot to push for mining in the area.
The North Gauteng High Court ruled last year that the minister could not grant a mining license to operate in Xolobeni without approval and consultation of the community.
'Decisive way forward'
The department told Fin24, in an email responding to questions, that the survey existed solely to put years of speculation regarding the whether the community would like mining investment to rest.
"The survey is an immediate priority for the department in relation to Xolobeni, as it will assist in giving a clear and decisive way forward and bring finality to the issue, which has been under discussion for the past 16 years," said the department.
The department said the survey would be independent and that there was no way for government to manipulate its outcomes, one way or another.
"The department will indicate once the survey, to be undertaken by an independent agency, commences. The mining industry plays an important role in the growth and development of South Africa and its economy," the email said.
The department said it encouraged sustainable mining, in line with the requirements of all the legislation, as well as mining and environmental management. The Department further enforces compliance in mining, the email said.
The department added that before each mining operation commences, applications undergo a systematic process that is in line with international environmental standards.The department said its measures would ensure that mining was carried out in an environmentally responsible manner and ensure minimal environmental degradation and or disruption in the ecosystem.