MCEJO and its allies to have their day in court

6 and 7 October – Pretoria High Court

It has taken over 3 years to finally get to court. In just over two weeks, on 6 and 7 October, we will be asking the Pretoria High Court on behalf of MCEJO, ActionAid, GET, MACUA and SAHRDN to find against the Minister of Mineral Resources, Tendele Coal Mining Pty Ltd and others by reviewing and setting aside Tendele’s 2016 mining right and the Minister’s 2017 decision to uphold the mining right against our appeal.

Tendele’s mining right was granted for 212 km2 of land falling within the Mpukunyoni Traditional Authority, west of Mtubatuba, KwaZulu-Natal. Our case is that Tendele’s EIA process was deficient in both environmental studies and consultation, especially with the affected residents and for that reason, the mining right should never had been granted by the Department.

In March this year, Tendele said it was intending to abandon 92% of its mining right and any deficiencies could be remedied by the additional studies it has subsequently done (albeit without any public participation) through an appeal process. Essentially, what Tendele is asking is for the Minister to redecide MCEJO’s appeal in view of these new studies and further public comment. Part of its motivation for proposing this as a remedy is that it will be quicker and thus prevent the mine having to close due to a R700 million debt and the lenders refusing to release additional funding while the court case is pending.

However, having looked carefully at Tendele’s supplementary court papers, it was clear that the areas (Ophondweni, Emalahleni and Mahujini) that it wanted to keep in its mining right, were in effect 45% bigger than had been assessed and disclosed in the original EIA and public participation process for these three areas.

This was confirmed at the beginning of September when Tendele provided us with its Section 102 application that it had submitted to the Department of Mineral Resources at the end of July. This application included a more detailed map with co-ordinates and actual size of the three individual areas which we were able to map and compare with the original maps in the mining right application and EIA documentation.  One area in particular, Mahujini, is now 5 times its original size.

It was therefore necessary for us to submit further court papers in response to Tendele’s intended changes pointing out these discrepancies. We also identified the additional approvals that Tendele would now require as a result of its amended mining areas, including an environmental authorisation for the clearance of huge tracts of additional indigenous vegetation and a waste management licence for additional waste rock dumps.

Tendele has informed us that it will be filing further papers by the end of the week as our affidavit allegedly contains factual inaccuracies.

We will continue to keep you updated as the court dates near. We truly hope that this time, the matter WILL proceed taking MCEJO and its allies one step closer to securing the justice they seek and protecting the rights of so many vulnerable people that government has failed to protect.

Court Papers: Application to review and set aside Tendele Mining Right

Fact Sheet: Somkhele Coal Mine, KZN, South Africa.pdf

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