Community members, led by Duduzile Baleni, the head of the Umgungundlovu community council, submitted their application to the high court in Pretoria, raising the notion that communities affected by mining should be furnished with copies of applications for mining rights.
Their application was deemed successful following Judge Tintswalo Makhubele’s ruling on the 14th of September which granted the community members the relief they sought. The judgment means the department of minerals and energy must give copies of mining applications to interested and affected parties on demand. The companies can hide only sensitive financial information.
Amadiba Crisis Committee which was formed to oppose titanium mining in Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape has welcomed the judgment. “From today, when communities also can demand to see the mining applications, they can take an informed decision and are not so easy to be fooled,” the committee said.
The committee added that this meant for example that the so-called “social and labour plans” (SLPs) in the applications are no longer secret to communities. These plans set out how mining companies intend to share some of the benefits that flow from mining.
In March 2015, a subsidiary of the Australian mining company MRC, Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM), filed its application to do opencast mining for titanium minerals along a 22km stretch on the Amadiba coast.
Lawyers of five directly affected villages demanded to see the mining application but TEM refused. After an application was filed before the court in November 2016, TEM gave in and gave the community a copy. However, the company had blacked out large parts of their SLP.
TEM opposed the relief sought to say though it had voluntarily provided the documents, the community members were not entitled to them. They said the right to the information was governed by the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) and that community members should use PAIA.
However, the community members challenged this notion by highlighting that the Mineral and Petroleum and Resources Development Act, properly interpreted, meant they were entitled to a copy on request and do not have to go through the PAIA process, which is very long.
In addition, The Mining Affected Communities United in Action, formed to protect the interests of people affected by mining, also welcomed the judgment. They said the judgment would give non-mining interests, including the community, the forestry, recreation and energy industries and others, a greater say in public land decisions.