[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Fighting minerals extraction: from Xolobeni villagers to Mary Oppenheimer Slack
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sun May 10 07:08:16 BST 2009
("mining junior MRC is not actually physically involved in any mining
projects, lacks experience, and is likely seeking to merely sell its
projects to a larger mining company.")
The issue of the mining rights for the Xolobeni titanium-bearing
deposits, on the Wild Coast, will be finalised by the end of this month
or early next month, Department of Minerals and Energy (DME)
spokesperson Bheki Khumalo tells Mining Weekly.
In the company's latest annual report, ASX-listed Mineral Commodities
(MRC) chairperson Joseph Caruso says that the approval of the mining
rights application for Xolobeni has been an "arduous process". "MRC
believes that, due to the importance of the Xolobeni project to the
area, the Minister will continue to support the issuing of the Xolobeni
mining rights; however, the issue date has been deferred, pending the
outcome of the appeal," says the company. However, he adds that the
company will continue to pursue the project, as "its merits are
substantial", although the company will minimise expenditure on the
project pending the outcome of the appeal.
In August 2008, MRC reported that the DME would award it the mining
rights for the Kwanyana block within the Xolobeni mineral sands tenement
area, adding that the mining rights would be signed in October.
However, in September, the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC) - comprising
affected community members and represented by the Grahamstown Legal
Resources Centre (LRC) - filed a notice of appeal with the Minister of
Minerals and Energy, Buyelwa Sonjica.
The ACC requested the Minister to suspend, and then appeal, the decision
to grant the mining rights. The basis of the appeal was that the mining
rights were granted to MRC without sufficient and reasonable notice to,
consultation with, or invitation for comments from, the Xolobeni
community as an interested and affected party.
The DME acknowledged receipt of the appeal, but by March had not
complied with the rest of the requirements in terms of the Mineral and
Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002 within a reasonable period,
LRC Xolobeni case lawyer Sarah Sephton told Mining Weekly in a previous
The final decision on whether or not the mining licence would be granted
was still unclear as there were strong arguments both for and against
granting the mining rights.
The proposed Xolobeni mineral sands project, near Port Edward, will be a
dry mining operation as the area being mined is relatively small. Between
13-million tons and 15-million tons of minerals are expected to be mined
a year, should the project go ahead.
Tormin Project In December 2008, MRC was granted mining rights for the
Tormin heavy minerals project, on the West Coast of South Africa. Final
processing plant design and engineering are now taking place.
"The company has commenced procedures to appoint an engi- neering group
to update the existing feasibility study. Based on a positive outcome to
this phase of the work, the company will let a tender for a turnkey
project to produce zircon and rutile concentrate," says Caruso in his
statement to shareholders.
"On the current schedule, the plant should be operational by the end of
calendar 2010," Caruso adds.
Uranium Prospects In April, MRC advised that it had "entered into a
letter of agreement" with Africa Uranium Limited (AUL) - "which provides
for MRC to have exclusive rights to fund AUL's mineral exploration
activities, in return for equity in AUL".
AUL is an unlisted public company with a 70% interest in the Hoasib
uranium project in Namibia, and has submitted a prospecting licence
application for the Usakos uranium project in Namibia.
AUL also has uranium projects in the Karoo Basin, in South Africa, which
were explored between 1970 and 1985, but AUL exploration has been
limited because of a lack of funding.
The agreement provides for MRC to spend up to $7-million, to earn a 50%
equity interest in AUL. It also provides for MRC to acquire a further 1%
stake in the company for $700 000.
MRC's minimum expenditure commitment is $1-million. Should MRC stop
funding after this expenditure, it will have earned a 10% stake in AUL.
Other Ventures As far as other operations are concerned, MRC through its
subsidiary Kariba Kono, owns a diamond tailings dump in Koidu, Sierra
Leone. The company resolved to sell its subsidiary or its assets in
Sierra Leone, and had an agreement in place with ROK Diamonds.
MRC says that the diamond pan plant supplied by Promet Engineers Africa
for the project failed. The sale to ROK was not concluded, and MRC took
the engineering company to court, where the companies settled the
matter, and A$2-million was paid to MRC, without admission of liability.
All plant and machinery delivered under the construction contract remain
in the possession and ownership of MRC.
MRC also holds a 9,13% stake in oil and gas consultancy Petro Ventures
International, which MRC says has secured three project areas in the UK,
Hungary, and off the Romanian coast.
The company's other interest lies in listed gold production and
exploration company Allied Gold. MRC is said to be one of the biggest
shareholders in Allied Gold, holding more than 15-million shares in the
company, at a value of some $6,5-million.
Interested parties hoping that MRC will not be granted more mining
rights in South Africa point to the fact that mining junior MRC is not
actually physically involved in any mining projects, lacks experience,
and is likely seeking to merely sell its projects to a larger mining
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
Farmers hamstring tungsten mine plan
West coast vlei threatened May 6, 2009
By Donwald Pressly
Residents and farmers in the Verlorenvlei valley are resisting plans for
an open-cast mine to produce tungsten.
The valley is one of the Western Cape’s most important estuarine systems
and one of the largest natural wetlands along South Africa’s west coast.
China is the biggest producer of tungsten, but many of its mines are now
deep and dangerous. Tungsten is used in gun barrels and light bulbs, but
its principal application is in mining. It hardens drill bits.
Verlorenvlei was declared a Ramsar site in 1991. The Ramsar Convention
is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of
Bongani Minerals, headed by Kimberley diamond rewashing merchant Trevor
Pikwane, has applied to the Department of Minerals and Energy for the
right to mine tungsten and molybdenum ore on farms in the district near
Elands Bay, northwest of Cape Town.
Pikwane declined to comment on the application and referred queries to
shareholder Phenelo Sehunelo, who did not respond to calls. Pikwane, who
also heads Pikwane Diamonds, said Sehunelo had all the relevant
information “and I don’t want to be misquoted”.
Farmers and landowners in the fertile valley upstream from the wetland
have been refusing to allow access to their land for an environmental
impact survey to be carried out by Aubrey Withers, an environmental
consultant based in Stellenbosch.
Mining has been bitterly opposed by Mary Slack, daughter of the late
Harry Oppenheimer who owns a horseracing stud in the valley; Bennie van
der Merwe, the owner of Moutonshoek farm, where mining is set to take
place; and Cape Town engineer Garry Sheard, who runs a small lavender
farm on the vlei.
It is understood that about 300 jobs will be created by the open-cast
mining operation, but farms would lose about 500 permanent and 1 000
temporary jobs because of the disruption.
Slack originally challenged Bongani Minerals’ application for
prospecting rights in 2005, and won the case on a technical point.
Ironically her father’s company, Anglo American, first helped Union
Carbide to identify the tungsten deposits in the valley in the 1970s.
Bongani Minerals made another application two years ago, which was
granted in April 2007. Landowners instituted legal action against the
Department of Minerals and Energy, but the licence lapsed before a
judicial review could come to court. Bongani Minerals has now applied to
the department for mining rights and wants to carry out an environmental
impact assessment, which is required in terms of the Mineral and
Petroleum Resources Development Act.
Withers reported that Bongani Minerals had applied under the act to mine
tungsten ore and molybdenum in three portions of one farm and on one
portion of another. The application was accepted by the Department of
Minerals and Energy on March 25.
Environmental and mining artist Jeannette Unite said a key issue was
“whether one should view mining as more important than the environment
and human livelihoods, including those of farmers and farm workers”.
Unite attended a meeting of interested parties with Withers last Thursday.
Meanwhile, Sheard pointed to the scoping report, which describes the
mining project and identifies the scope of its impact, drawn up by
Withers and his team. This refers to environmental “constraints”.
Among the problems were the building up of sediment “and excavation
through aquifer systems”, Sheard noted.
Other constraints identified by Withers included that a large area of
arable land and a number of farming livelihoods would be affected.
The mining areas would also be close to the Krom Antonies River, which
feeds the Verlorenvlei wetland.
There was also the possibility that the river course could be modified,
encouraging alien invader species “and dramatic movement of large
volumes of sand during floods”, the scoping report notes.
Withers said much of the surveying work could not take place because his
team had not been allowed on to the land, owing to farmers’ resistance.
He noted that the open-cast plan by Bongani Minerals was considered the
only technically viable mine design to extract low-grade but
commercially viable tungsten-molybdenum.
This was distinct from tunneling. Open mines are used when deposits of
minerals or rock are near the surface. The envisaged life of the mine
would be 20 years.
Withers noted that a detailed stormwater management plan was needed for
the site, including specific measures to reduce the rate of runoff into
freshwater ecosystems. He argued that the working population in the area
would increase and that the opportunity arose to clear alien vegetation
and rehabilitate stretches of the Krom Antonies River.
There would be socioeconomic benefits “both to the surrounding farming
community, to the government and the local municipality”.
After a public meeting at the weekend, Van der Merwe said that he, the
owners of the other directly affected farms - cousins Manus and Johannes
Coetzee - and other groups from the Tierhoek Trust and Swift Investments
had not been given any answers. “After four years of their snooping
around they had no answers,” he said.
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