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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

New Mining Charter ‘expected to disregard communities even more’

Mining is being pushed at all costs, which could possibly result in fierce battles with communities, similar to oil-rich Nigeria, an analyst warns.

With the department of mineral resources (DMR) seemingly having shown a total disregard for community concerns in the titanium-rich Xolobeni on the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast, societal interests are expected to take even more of a back seat in its release of the latest version of the Mining Charter today, according to mining analyst Hassan Lorgat.

Lorgat is the policy manager at the Bench Marks Foundation – an independent think tank on social justice associated with mining – which has published a 21-page guide on how mining houses and affected communities should resolve problems.

“I expect the release of the charter to be more of the same, with less community voices,” said Lorgat.

The recent stand-off between the Xolobeni community and the police in the presence of Minerals Minister Gwede Mantashe, which saw residents being tear-gassed and their lawyer, Richard Spoor, being arrested, “showed government’s ideological commitment to mining”, he said.

“For 12 years, the people of Xolobeni have waged a struggle against mining in Pondoland. The DMR has shown lack of proper consultation with communities; lack of cost benefit analysis ….

“What the rising tensions between communities, DMR and a local pro-mining group have illustrated, is that mining is being pushed at all costs, with disregard for severe consequences,” said Lorgat.

He warned government of possible fierce battles with communities, similar to oil-rich Nigeria.

“Does the DMR want to see that happen here?” asked Lorgat. “Irrational capitalism has led government to be hard on poor people.”

Manhandled by police, arrested and charged for “inciting public violence”, Spoor this week briefly appeared in the Bizana Magistrate’s Court and must reappear on October 25.

Spoor represents the Xolobeni community in the fight to prevent Australian mining company Mineral Resources Commodities from being granted a licence.

“I am appalled at how police have fabricated charges against me. I am concerned about violence in the area. We want the minister to engage us in a more structured way,” he said.

Mantashe has distanced himself from reports by the Australian company that government is sympathetic to its mine.

The department said it “cannot infer why the company would indicate as such in its investor reports”.

It confirmed Mantashe had met MRC in Australia, “ to promote investment in South Africa’s mining sector”.

brians@citizen.co.za, additional reporting GroundUp.

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