By Rob Symons
I trust all all our supporters and the Save our iMfolozi Wilderness community have had a good holiday season and are off to prosperous New Year.
We have seen significant developments in our campaign through 2017 so here is a concise update of where we are.
As we reported in September last year The original Ibhuto Coal application to mine coal in the Fuleni area on the southern border of the iMfolozi Wilderness area has lapsed. A new Mining Right Application and EIA process would have to be initiated to commence mining again.
However rumours are circulating that new environmental consultants have been engaged to start new studies in the area. A careful watch will be kept on these developments.
During 2017 the Department of Transport submitted an application for the construction of a large bridge over the Mfolozi River, only 2km from the boundary of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. This bridge is to supposedly link the Fuleni and Somkhele communities but in reality will provide a route for heavy traffic including coal trucks.
This project has major social and safety issues for the communities and will have sever light and noise impact on the iMfolozi Wilderness area.
We objected to this project through the EIA process and when authorisation was granted we submitted an appeal. We have been advised by the appeal administrator that this matter has been allocated to an independent expert on the MEC`s Appeal Panel and that recommendations to the MEC has been compiled to be forwarded for consideration.
High Court Application
Tendele mine filed their answering affidavits to our application. Briefly, they allege that they do not require environmental authorisation or planning permission to be mining the way that they do. They admit to not complying with cultural heritage legislation (with regard to the graves being exhumed) but state that they now do comply and this alone is not a good enough reason to prevent them from operating.
They put forward huge figures relating to the number of people they employ (1000) and the amount of money they put into the community. All this is unsubstantiated.
We have received notice that the date of the hearing has been set for 24 August, 2018.
Mining Rights Appeal
We are waiting to hear the outcome of our appeal of the 2016 mining right in favour of Tendele Mine (222 square km and valid until 2046).
Criminal charges against Somkhele community members.
During November 2017, our attorney, Kirsten Youens, was asked to attend a bail hearing for 9 men who had been arrested at the instance of Tendele mine for protesting about lack of jobs outside the mine gate. They were charged with public violence and were in jail for a week. A further 7 people (6 women and 1 man) were also arrested after they went to the mine to find out why the other 9 were arrested. They were released on a warning the same day but need to appear in court again on 7 December along with the other nine that we managed to get released on bail. On the return date Youens argued for the charges to be dropped as their actions did not satisfy the elements of public violence. The mine management and the mining committee have been at court on each occasion (and on other separate occasions). They even attempted to get the 16 accused to sign a document committing to three months community service!