State-owned and funded by the Central Energy Fund, African Exploration Mining and Finance Company (AEMFC) has applied for prospecting rights for tin, zinc, lead, lithium, copper, manganese and silver on land which currently includes leading wine farms such as Saxenburg, Jordan, Langverwacht and Zevenwacht Estates (see previous article). The Department of Mineral Resources has provisionally accepted these prospecting rights and AEMFC has been exempted by the Minister of Minerals and Energy from many provisions of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act with regard to prospecting rights, mining rights and mining permits. According to the Chamber of Mines these provisions normally require applicants to submit environmental management programmes and to consult with interested and affected parties.
Opposition to the applications
Despite the flawed public participation process, overwhelming support from producer groups, conservation groups, the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance, influential international wine writers, heritage groups from all over the country as well as the public at large in South Africa and around the world ensured that thousands of opposition registrations were received by the consultants to AEMFC by the 9th March 2010.
The communities affected by the rights applications united to form the ‘Winelands Action Group’ and are calling on all affected parties country-wide to join forces to oppose the indiscriminate issuing of prospecting and mining licenses in economically, ecologically and environmentally sensitive areas of South Africa.
Statements regarding the withdrawal of the prospecting rights applications
The Winelands Action Group was delighted at recent announcements by the Director-general of the DME, Adv Sandile Nogxina that the process could not go ahead. This was followed by a press release issued by Mr Mandla Tyala, head of communications for the CEF group and issued on behalf of Mr Mputumi Damane, the chairman of AEMFC. Although this statement was vaguely worded and incorrectly dated 11th March 2009, a telephonic discussion between legal counsel and Mr Tyala confirmed that this should have been dated 2010 and that it applied to the prospecting rights applications in question.
An about-turn on the previous statements?
However, subsequent discussions with GCS (Pty) Ltd (AEMFC’s consultants) showed that despite the assurances given in the press release by Mr Damane, the state company and their consultants are still going ahead with the application process. This has been confirmed by Mr. Mzukisi Mafuya of the Regional DME office in Cape Town who said that ‘the statement issued was incorrect’.
Questions are now being asked as to whether this is a deliberate attempt by the company to distract the media and the public at large and thus prevent any further comments from parties such as the Winelands Action Group. This idea is given further credence by the statement from DME Director-General Sandile Nogxina which says “We knew from the very beginning that the process, which is ingrained in the act itself, would not have allowed a situation where mining would take place on a farm on which an operation is … taking place." Yet the applications continue to be processed despite their apparent illegality.
As Gary Jordan puts it “With the state acting as both referee and player with regards to AEMFC’s applications country-wide, one realizes that there is something inherently wrong, not only with the prospecting and mining rights application system, but with the very existence of a state-controlled mining house. If this is being done to line the pockets of a select group of people, then every citizen in South Africa has something to lose.”
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