Stop mining of the Xolobeni beaches in the Transkei sign now

WHY MINING THE WILD COAST IS A VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS By John GI Clarke.

The Department of Minerals and Energy has announced that it intends awarding a mining licence to Australian mining company MRC on 31 October 2008 to mine the Kwanyana Block of the Amadiba Tribal Administrative Area, on the Pondoland Wild Coast. This announcement has been made before the SA Human Rights Commission has completed its investigation into human rights violations lodged by local residents allegedly perpetrated by agents of MRC.

If the Minister of Minerals and Energy signs the mining licence and Environmental Management Plan on 31 October, we believe it would be in gross violation of the Constitution of South Africa, notably the Environmental Right enshrined in Section 24 which states. Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting
justifiable economic and social development.

We believe the Minister will be in breach of the oath of office she made to uphold the constitution of the Republic of South Africa upon her swearing as a cabinet minister because the Xolobeni Mineral Sands venture has been shown to fall very far short of justifiable economic and
social development, for the following reasons:

Seven of the fundamental human rights enshrined
in the South African Constitution have been violated by the
mining company and its supporters. The HRC report
(published on www.swc.org.za) includes the complaint, and
reports on its observations and conclusions. The allegations
have not been contested by any party named.

The report explains that in the process of
investigating the allegations, the HRC found that the
Departments of Minerals and Energy and the
Environmental Affairs and Tourism were not on the same
page with respect to the proposed development, and that
the overwhelming majority of the approximately 3000
directly affected local residents were opposed to the
venture.

Since the HRC report was published in November
2007, it was further found that the public participation
process for the conduct of the EIA was grossly biased in
failing to ensure those residents most affected by the mining
proposal were capacitated to participate meaningfully.
Besides failing to educate the local residents, meetings were
held some distance away from the mining area. In one
instance when a local resident Nontle Mbuthuma raised
objections to this, she was forcibly evicted from the meeting
by an employee of the mining company (see report by East
London Daily Dispatch).

All relevant authorities have not been in full
compliance with the relevant statutes: the Mineral and
Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPDRA), the
National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), and the
Interim Protection of Indigenous Land Rights Act
(IPILRA). The HRC asked for documentation from the
relevant Departments (DME, DEAT, and the Department of
Land Affairs). The departments only responded after the
HRC was forced to issue the respective ministers with a
subpoena compelling them to respond. They complied
hours before the subpoena hearing was due to start, forcing
the Chair Commissioner Leon Wessels to adjourn the
hearing to give the HRC time to study the 11th hour
submission by DME.

Shortly before the Ministerial Subpoena hearing,
an evaluation report on the EIA by DEAT officials was
obtained by SWC, in terms of the Promotion of Access to
Information Act, which in fact revealed major
contradictions between DEAT and DME interests. The
DEAT report has advised that The mining is a short-term
economic activity with long-term negative impacts whereas
the ecotourism in the area has an unlimited life span,
concluding with a strong recommendation that the mining
licence should not be awarded, given available information.
It emerged that the DEAT report had not been submitted to
DME before the 21 Dec 2007, deadline, and would have
been disregarded, had SWC not obtained it.

The mining venture is in both its parts and its
whole a wasting activity in that it entails the use of and
impact upon eco-system services provided by nature (water,
energy, and soils) for the extraction of non-renewable
mineral resources for industrial applications, in such a
manner that these eco-systems will be degraded in their
capacity to provide for sustainable livelihoods once the
minerals have been extracted. It will thus destroy the local
resource base upon which community based sustainable
development is absolutely dependent.

The mining is serving the short-term vested
interests of a few local elites and a foreign corporation, and
the impacts will result in greater poverty and social
disintegration in the area due to the very limited benefits it
will bring to alleviate material poverty and raise basic living
standards.

The mining venture will not only hamper the
viability of lon-term sustainable development initiatives, but
will also continue to negatively impact upon already
existing eco-tourism enterprises, and destroy fledgling
community development processes along the Wild Coast.

The mining venture is in conflict with several of
South Africas agreed international obligations to
sustainably conserve and manage our biodiversity and
ensure benefit-sharing from such use, including under the
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Suggested mitigations of environmental impacts
are not viable or possible (given the available data and
information on which they are based), which will therefore
result in the destruction of a unique, internationally
recognised centre of endemism with the risk that this will
push a number of threatened (red data) endemic species to
extinction due to their restricted ranges within the centre of
endemism.

Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Ireland, while visiting South Africa last year, advised civil society to heed the words of Eleanor
Rooseveld.

Where, after all, do universal rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

Accordingly we invite concerned citizens to petition the Minister of Minerals and Energy to reject the mining licence application.


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Helena BowersBy:
Transport and infrastructureIn:
Petition target:
The Minister of Minerals and Energy, South Africa and Chair: SA Human Rights Commission

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