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By Ilse de Lange


Lesethleng villagers win ‘milestone’ judgment against mines

Mineral rights on a property do not trump land ownership or the occupation rights of that property, the Constitutional Court ruled.

Lawyers for Human Rights has welcomed a Constitutional Court ruling that a mining right did not supersede the rights of land occupiers as exactly the milestone that mining communities needed.

The Constitutional Court yesterday set aside an eviction order and trespassing interdict obtained by the Pilanesberg Platinum Mine against the Lesethleng village community, saying the fact that the mine held mining rights over the land did not mean the community was occupying the land unlawfully.

The court held that a mineral rights holder must exhaust the internal procedures prescribed by the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act before resorting to an interdict to restrain interference with mining.

Three families of the village slaved for three years to raise the money to buy Wilgespruit farm in the Rustenburg district in 1918 but could not be registered as the owners of the land because of discriminatory colonial racial laws and policies.

As a result, the farm was registered in the name of the native commissioner who, in turn, held it in trust on behalf of the chief of the Bakgatla-ba-Kgafela, the overarching authority presiding over the Lesethleng community and 36 other villages in the area.

In 2008, the community agreed to a surface lease by the platinum mine in terms of which the community would lease the farm to the mine for mining purposes.

In 2014, they obtained an interdict to stop mining operations, but the mine obtained an eviction order and an order preventing the community from returning to the farm.

The Constitutional Court found that the existence of a mineral right did not in itself extinguish the rights of a landowner or any other occupier of land.


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