Tunatazama - Community Monitors

Public Hearings

Astone Chaole

Astone Chaole
Matjhabeng Local Municipality
Lejoeleputsoa District
Free State Province

Public Hearings

During the month of April the Free State province witnessed a massive spate of public hearings, the focus was on the UPSTREAM PETROLEUM RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT BILL (UPRD). These hearings took place over the weekend of 21st to 23rd April. The irony with these hearings is that they were held in places where mining has never taken place, yet they are mining-related.

Public hearings are meant for community engagements with parliament and community organisations came in their multitudes to attend the hearings. These hearings are no different from the MPRDA. First of all one has to allude that the government has failed to hold mining companies to account. The government continues to be the custodian of the people’s interests in the MPRDA but mining companies continue to live with impunity and are not accountable to anyone. The bill does not accommodate the previously disadvantaged into the mainstream mining sector and does not promote equal access to resources. That means nothing has changed.

As mining-affected communities we are not supporting we are not supporting this bill for various reasons emanating from previous experiences with mining operations in our communities We don’t want other communities to suffer from the unscrupulous exploitation of the mining companies. As it was alluded to by Makhotla Sefuli GUBUCO and the Benchmarks Foundation, the post-mining economy is not favourable to the local communities. This is informed by his experience as a resident of Welkom, a city whose economy has died since the en masse exodus of mining companies. These companies have left a legacy of tailing dams that harm communities that are nearer to them,

The mining communities continue to suffer against the backdrop of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development. If mining companies were following, the mining charter, social labor plans, and meaningful consultations we believe a lot could have been avoided. Places like Welkom wouldn’t be classified as ghost towns. Mining companies are extracted much and  they failed to rehabilitate to keep environmental safety.
They leave the communities without any skills development programs and no alternative economic opportunities for young people. The communities are steadfast in their opposition to the bill as they are the ones who are going to bear the brunt of the environmental degradation of mining operations.

The major problem is that the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, which is expected to act as the custodian of community interests has and continues to fail them. As communities, we have reported many cases to the department to no avail, and we don’t see any meaningful change. There is no extensive and proper consultation even in the third generation of the mining charter. The mining companies do not implement the projects as contained in their social labor plans and do not abide by the environmental authorisation plans. Surprisingly the DMRE renews its licenses every five years. This is a spat in the mining affected communities.

The communities, therefore, feel that this bill is a complete fallacy with nothing new but a revised edition of what was said before. The government is still the custodian but fails to protect the interests of the communities on whose behalf they claim to act and represent.

The MPRDA should be strengthened to accommodate communities and empower them to hold mining companies to account, rather than promulgating a plethora of acts that are never implemented.