With Ibutho Coal (Pty) Ltd having gone to ground in mid-2016, we breathed a short sigh of relief and basked in our victory. For mining to be pursued again in Fuleni, a new mining right application and EIA process would need to instigated. For now, Fuleni is safe.
However, in June 2017 GET and the SOiW campaign heeded the call of the residents of the Somkhele area where Tendele Coal Mining (Pty) Ltd has been operating since 2004. There are approximately 48 000 people in Somkhele, hundreds of whom have been relocated and had their ancestral graves exhumed by the mine’s operations.
As the mine’s expansion plans commence, so this number increases and so does its proximity to the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (HiP). Currently the mine is 5km away from the HiP but the proposed expansion will bring it onto the south-eastern boundary of the Park’s wilderness area. The expansion plans are for an area of 21 233 hectares – over 220 km2.
We only recently found out about the mining right that authorised this vast area and have therefore submitted an appeal to the Director-General of the Department of Mineral Resources against the granting of it. This appeal was submitted on 6 September 2017.
The Department of Transport has submitted an application for the development of a large bridge over the Mfolozi River only 2 kms from the boundary of HiP and suggests that it will attract ‘regional traffic’. This will also attract coal trucks through rural villages, creating major safety issues as well as light and noise impact on the HiP. This bridge will link the Fuleni and Somkhele areas.
We objected to this bridge through the environmental impact assessment process and, when environmental authorisation was granted, submitted an appeal. We are now waiting for the outcome of that appeal.
On the south western border of the Fuleni Reserve, a new mining rights application has been submitted to the Department of Mineral Resources by Mpisi Trading 143 (Pty) Ltd, to mine coal over an area of 8 500 hectares, which includes the famous Thula Thula Game Reserve. Our legal representative, Kirsten Youens, is working with Thula Thula and surrounding landowners to prevent the destruction of this iconic place and the loss of its famous herd of elephants, associated with Lawrence Anthony, the elephant whisperer.
The SOiW campaign continues to work closely with Somkhele and Fuleni activists, the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO), other NGOs and Community organisations. Through instituting legal and other interventions, we are pushing for proper community consultation and engagement, as well as accountability and compliance of mining companies and government departments.