SACBC Justice and peace commission has assisted the Rural network and the Makhasaneni community in Kwazulu Natal to make a submission to the consultation process aimed at exploring the expansion of coal mining in their area.    Reverend Mavuso from Rural network reports:

On the 5th of August 2014, the local headman, Mr. Dludla delivered a letter dated 22nd July 2014 from Golder Associates Pty Ltd.  It was received as a copy from eNtembeni Traditional Council.  It was an invitation for submissions by communities affected by Jindal Mining’s operations that had already begun in the areas of Nkwalini, Makhasaneni, Matshansundu, Mfanefile, Sabiza and Thunzini.  Golder Associates is a consultancy that was appointed by Jindal to do and Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (EISA).  Usually, an environmental and social impact studies ought to be done before projects begin, but in this case, it seemed like an after-thought on the part of Jindal.

Be that as it may, Rural Network decided to respond as instructed.   It (the network) decided on a rapid assessment process.  Such process was going to entail visiting the affected communities in order to gather first-hand information about people’s experiences in relation to operations that were already taking place, and also to express their fears and hopes.

  • Rapid Assessment

This process was planned to take place over a period of 3 days, plus 2 days to put the submission together and to deliver it to the Traditional Council and to Golder Associates Pty Ltd. The team that was to conduct the assessments decided on visiting the Mtubatuba community that hosts a coal mine, known as Somkhele Mine.  The purpose of this was to learn from this community’s experience and observe some of the visible impacts, so as to develop guiding questions for the interviews they were to conduct with the communities they had planned to visit over the days to follow.

  • Mtubatuba – Somkhele Mine 25.82014

People affected by the mine at Mtubatuba, related their unpleasant experiences of a series of broken promises. They highlighted the following:

  • Jobs

 

Promised Delivered
80% of labour to be sourced from local communities. Although no figures are on hand, the community’s perception was that there were more labourers from other areas and other provinces than from their community.   It was difficult to ascertain these figures because there was no baseline.  It was not revealed during negotiations how many jobs the mine planned to create, so that the 80% would be determined more accurately.

 

  • Education/scholarships

 

Promised Delivered
A)     Community members to be trained on skills relevant for the coal mining operation and will be employed.  No known scholarship has been given to the children.B)      Children completing matric to be given scholarships. 

C)      School to be demolished to make way for the mine to be rebuilt nearby as a double-story structure.

–          To a limited extent this happened.  A few of the people who were trained got the jobs in the mine, but may are still unemployed 9 years later.-          Although, according to the responses to the memorandum the community presented during their march in 2012, the Mine claims to have taken 1 child through tertiary education, the members of the community met did not know the child.-          A school was built, but not the specification (double story).

 

 

  • Development

 

Promised Delivered
Tarred access roads to be built None, the only tarred roads are ones leading from main road to the mine.
Demolished houses to be rebuilt as fully serviced modern houses within the same community. Done, but already cracking from mine’s heavy blasting.
Reburials to be conducted in the manner the original funerals were held (animals for rituals to be provided by the mine) Done, but poor workmanship has caused erosion of new graves. The mine took responsibility for rehabilitation thereof.
Earth dams for livestock None, instead livestock is dying from polluted streams.
Crèches One delivered

 

  • The mining operation
  • Heavy blasting

 

The evidence of cracked houses, including the ones built by the mine, is everywhere through that community, and yet the mine’s response to the people’s memorandum where they raised this as one of their major concerns, the mine claimed that their blasting was within the allowable limit. Therefore they would accept any responsibility for cracked walls.

  • Environmental pollution

Pictures of streams that look poisoned were shown. The community claims that their livestock is dying from these.  Once again, the community does not have resources to prove this scientifically, and yet their animals are dying and the mine won’t accept any responsibility.

The black dust from coal is visible to the naked eye clear days, and yet the mine claims that it operates within acceptable environmental standards.

In addition to these partly fulfilled and unfulfilled promises, people also related health (respiratory and skin diseases) among some community members. Yet again, people know that it has to do with the mine, but they can’t prove it scientifically.  It’s a ‘DAVID VS GOLIATH’ situation.

 

  • Unpacking lessons from the Mtubatuba 26.8.2014

According to Reverend Mavuso, the team that travelled to Mtuba was not properly prepared. On picking this up, Reverend Mavuso decided that the next day (26th Aug) was going to be used to debrief the Mtuba experience and prepare the team for the next trips.

  • Mfanefile & Matshansundu 27.8.2014
  • Mfanefile

At MfanefileIt was observed that the land had been drilled extensively, and roads had been opened up. One of the holes was drilled on water stream that people use for consumption.  People expressed fear that they will eventually be relocated.  They clearly did not like what was already happening but kept quiet because of the promise of jobs.

  • Matshansundu

On arrival at Matshansundu, company vehicles were used to block the road into the community. The team decided to leave the car, some distance away, and walked into the village and conducted interviews in individual households.  The unanimous view was that people were unhappy.

 

  • Drafting the submission 28.8.2014

The 28th of September was spent drafting and finalising the submission which was to be delivered the next day, the 29th August 2014.

By Reverend M. Mavuso