With the court date just weeks away, activists are going head-to-head with South Africa’s mining company, Petmin Corporate, whose oil mine borders Africa’s oldest animal reservation.
A Smokhele judge will review the case and the list of complaints lodged against Petmin Corporate’s plans to expand the mine which stands just outside the Hluhluwe–Imfolozi nature reserve.
“If the judge (rules) against us, he is saying mining companies in South Africa don’t have to comply with the law, and that is terrifying. If he finds for us, he says the law in this country is to be respected by everybody,” said Smokhele community attorney, Kirsten Youens to the Guardian.
“The environment and thousands of people’s lives are at stake,” Youens said, noting the hundreds of low-income families being displaced by the mine expansion.
Company CEO, Jan du Preez has denied the mounting allegations of malpractice, insisting that the mine, which produces anthracite coal- a rare and valuable mineral- has observed all legal requirements and the complaints are simply those of anti-mining activists.
“While the world needs environmental activists to protect against unscrupulous people, these activists also need to … actually, consider the facts. Unfortunately, some are idealists who would rather have a devastated economy and no jobs than a responsibly run mine,” du Preez told the Guardian.
Petmin officials assure that due compensation was paid to displaced residents to make room for the mine expansion which would cover moving expenses and the cost of exhuming deceased relatives from the local cemetery.
“It would be wonderful if the world could obtain its raw materials with zero harm, but that is in utopia,” Du Preez said.
Petmin officials argue that thousands of jobs have emerged thanks to the mine, adding that it offers a cushion to South Africa’s struggling economy.
However, Center for Environmental Rights executive director, Melissa Fourie, told the Guardian, the nation’s economic state is not an excuse to abuse natural resources.
“Mining shouldn’t be seen as the solution to all problems. The government needs to be more creative in its thinking. We don’t have to destroy precious natural resources forever,” she said.
The case is presented to the court after over a year of demonstrations and online campaigns as well as petitions supported by the Global Environment Trust (GET) and members of the iMfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organization (MCEJO).