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Battle for Xolobeni's titanium heading for highest court

Sep 25 2016 06:25
Lubabalo Ngcukana

The fight for the soul of Xolobeni could go to the highest court in the land, according to the opponents of proposed titanium mining activities near Mbizana on the Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape.

Nonhle Mbuthuma, secretary of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, a lobby group at the forefront of the fight to prevent Australian mining company Mineral Resources Commodities from mining the red dunes in Xolobeni, an area rich with the titanium mineral, spoke to City Press this week after Umgungundlovu headwoman in Xolobeni Duduzile Baleni filed a declaratory application in the High Court in Pretoria.

In the application, Baleni – who was forced to flee Xolobeni in December owing to violence and threats to her life because of her opposition to the proposed mining – wants the court to declare that Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane did not have any authority to grant mining rights on any land in South Africa held under tribal law or authority, in terms of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act.

The minister has 15 days to file his answering affidavits, which will then determine the course of action for the applicants.

Mbuthuma said they would ensure no mining took place in Xolobeni in their lifetime.

This comes despite Mineral Resources Commodities announcing in July their intention to get out of the Xolobeni project.

“We are prepared to take this matter to the Constitutional Court. But that will not be the end of the fight. We will fight until the end, no matter what the court says.

“We have confidence in the courts of the country, that they will come to a logical conclusion,” Mbuthuma said.

The application by Baleni also comes against the backdrop of an 18-month moratorium issued by Zwane last week on any application for mining licences in Xolobeni, which Mbuthuma dismissed as just “a small victory” and buying of time for the pro-mining group to recuperate.

In the court papers, Baleni said the land in question – 2 800 hectares in extent, and comprising a strip of land of 22km between Mpahlane and Mtentu Estuaries and extending to about 1.5km inland – that Mineral Resources Commodities intended to mine was an “important resource”, and central to her and many community members.

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