Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe on Wednesday announced the imminent start of an independent survey to be undertaken in Xolobeni, in the Eastern Cape.
This follows the Minister’s visit to the community on Tuesday in efforts to gain “full consent” to planned mining and economic activity in the region.
“On the basis of the outcomes of the survey, we will then take a firm decision on the way forward,” Mantashe said in a statement.
If mining goes ahead in Xolobeni, it must be sustainable and coexist with tourism, agriculture and other economic development initiatives, the Minister added.
“Whichever right-owner is granted the licence to mine must also adhere strictly to the provisions in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) and Mining Charter, including implementation of social and labour plans.”
The survey, which is intended to determine if mining will proceed in the area, will start in the next few weeks.
The Xolobeni community has been at loggerheads with the Department of Mineral Resources, while waging a 15-year-long battle against the issuing of a mining licence to Transworld Energy and Minerals, which is a subsidiary of Australian mining company MRC and which wants to mine titanium in the area.
Earlier this month, Mantashe confirmed that he was going to appeal the Pretoria High Court’s judgment, which found that the Minister could not award a mining right at Xolobeni unless the “full and informed consent” of the community had been obtained.
Mantashe stressed at the time that he approved of the main thrust of the judgment. The appeal would be on two grounds only.
The elements of the judgment that would be appealed concern the authority to issue mining licences and the status of the MPRDA.
The Minister argued that the judgment took the right of awarding mining licences away from the Department of Mineral Resources and gave it to local communities.
It also subordinated the MPRDA to other legislation.