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Potchefstroom Barolong community in fight for mining rights

A new mining project, 16km near Potchefstroom, in South Africa's North West province, has created tension with the local Barolong community, who have a long history of relocating and fighting for ancestral land and mineral rights.

In March 2017, mining group Senosi Group Investments Holdings (Pty) compiled a scoping report for 8,475.95 hectares of land and stated that a Prospecting Right for diamonds and gold was being lodged.

On Friday, October 6 2017, Senosi held a meeting with affected landowners to discuss how the new mining developments would affect them. All landowners were invited except for the Barolong community who own a large piece of the land that will be affected.

A Barolong Kgoro/Mareledi community leader and Barolong's mining representative, Peter Mokoena, who heard about the meeting by chance, attended the event and objected that the Barolong community had not been invited to participate.

Two Senosi representatives, Lufuno Mutshathama and Alice Moropa, who chaired the meeting, assured Mokoena that Senosi was planning to consult with the Barolong community separately.

Mokoena made a request to the Senosi representatives that Senosi board members arrange a meeting with the Barolong council. Mokoena said the community would not allow any prospecting to go ahead if the community was not consulted and if mining went ahead the community should either receive royalties, freeholding shares or be taken on by Senosi as a BEE partner.

Mokoena said that the Barolong community had for years been trying to acquire the Eleazer district land where ancestral burial sites are located. They are currently waiting for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to process their request to repossess the land. Currently it is owned by the Tlokwe municipality. The Barolong have been trying to protect the Eleazer land and the Highveld Nature Park next to it but have encountered problems as illegal mining activities and the presence of zama-zamas (illegal miners) on the land has made it difficult and dangerous.

The council has filed an access to information report at the Department of Mineral Resources to determine who has applied for mineral rights in the area and to whom the mineral rights of certain sections of the land currently belong.

The International Comparative Legal Guide states under South Africa Mining Law 2018 Native Title and Land Rights that the possession of a Native Title Surface Use Right cannot prohibit mining or prospecting mining rights being obtained by an outside party, but if loss or damage is caused, the native title holder must be compensated and must have been consulted beforehand.

"Communities have a preferent right to apply for a prospecting or mining right in respect of any mineral and land which is registered or to be registered in the name of the community concerned," the clause states.

Senosi's mine manager, Sipho Mkhatshwa; the EAP (Environmental Assessment Practitioner) who prepared the report, Lufuno Mutshathama; and one of the directors, Steven Maromule, were all contacted before the publication of this article for comment.

All of which either declined to comment or requested to comment at a later date.



Since the publication of this story, Senosi director Steven Maromule was adamant that he did not wish to comment and advised to contact Senosi's lawyers. Shortly thereafter, Sipho Matuwane, phoned and said he was phoning on behalf of Maromule. Matuwane identified himself only as being from the Programme for Community Development at Eleazar Gold Mine which currently has the prospecting rights on the Eleazar land. Matuwane said he needed to consult with the directors first before replying to any questions.

Joan Construction and Projects' owner and Environmental Assessment Practitioner (EAP), Lufuno Mutshathama, who compiled the scoping report for Senosi, said that Joan Construction and Projects was in the process of consulting with the Barolong people.

She said the Barolong did not have "the correct standing committee as yet", because there was not a single leader among the Barolong at present.

She said once they had resolved their inner conflict, Senosi would be able to consult with the Barolong council and community.

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