Shabangu withdraws Xolobeni mining licence

7th June 2011 By: Christy van der Merwe

JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) − South African Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu has withdrawn the mining licence granted to Transworld Energy and Minerals (TEM) in 2008, to mine for titanium-bearing minerals near Xolobeni on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast.

The Minister issued a letter stating that the licence was withdrawn because the decision to grant the mining licence was taken at a stage when several environmental issues were outstanding.

Shabangu added that TEM had 90 days to submit this further environmental information to the Department of Mineral Resources’ Eastern Cape regional manager. The Eastern Cape would then submit a recommendation to the Minister.

The news was welcomed by the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), which was the organisation that appealed the granting of the licence.

The ACC added that the complaint it had lodged with the Public Protector, owing to numerous delays and the long time taken to reach a decision on the matter, has subsequently been withdrawn.

“The decision of Minister Shabangu closes a very long and frustrating chapter in the quest of the Amadiba residents for sustainable livelihoods,” said social worker for the ACC John Clarke. He noted, however, that “the Minister has left the door slightly ajar to allow the applicants a ninety-day period in which to re-apply”.

Clarke added that the uncertainty of whether or not mining would proceed in the area has for the last three years been obstructing the local residents from pursing sustainable livelihood’s from nature and heritage-based eco tourism.

He said that plans were in the pipeline to revive the community-based eco-tourism venture Amadiba Adventures, which hoped to attract visitors coming to South Africa to attend the global climate change conference in Durban in December.

Initially one of the major concerns brought forward by the ACC was that proper consultation with all stakeholders and interested and affected parties (IAPs) had not taken place. Shabangu said that she was satisfied that TEM did take all reasonable steps to consult with IAPs.

The reasons for revoking the mining licence were environmental.

Clarke questioned the Minister’s conclusion that proper consultation had taken place, and noted that the Human Rights Commission had found in 2007 that consultation was “woefully lacking”.

“I assume that Minister Shabangu was waiting for the elections before announcing her decisions, and hope that she is reassured that there can be no local political backlash. The Mbizana municipality is one of the poorest in the country and the local council needs support to make full use of the astounding natural and heritage resources at its disposal to promote jobs and development,” added Clarke.

The Xolobeni project has been regarded as one of the largest undeveloped mineral sands resources in the world, containing more than nine-million tons of ilmenite.

TEM is the South African subsidiary of ASX-listed Mineral Resources Commodities, and was granted a licence to mine a portion of the mineral sands called the Kwanyana block.

MRC also owns Tormin mineral sands project on the west coast of South Africa.

TEM administration stated that it had not received any documentation from the DMR, and could thus not comment on the matter.