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Eviction order a joke – miners

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An eviction order, granted to De Beers less that a week prior to the signing of this agreement, has resulted in widespread confusion among the informal miners

Picture: Supplied

DESPITE two eviction orders hanging over their heads, hundreds of artisanal miners continue to operate in the vicinity of Kimberley amidst uncertainty over where they have a legitimate right to mine.

This comes just over two weeks after an agreement, reached between the various stakeholders, was hailed as a major milestone in the mining sector and was expected to legitimise the work of nearly a thousand miners.

However, an eviction order, granted to De Beers less that a week prior to the signing of this agreement, has resulted in widespread confusion among the informal miners, according to Artisanal Miners Kimberley Committee (AMKC) chairperson Lucky Seekoei.

Seekoei yesterday described the high court eviction order granted to De Beers as “a joke”, arguing that, as was the case with a separate but similar Northern Cape High Court ruling granted against the illegal miners in favour of the Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture (KEM-JV), more clarity on the pertinent sites was needed for an order to be enforced.

“The court must have made a joke as you can’t have two such parallel cases,” said Seekoei yesterday. “We were given title deeds by Ekapa only to have someone else come forward and claim that the land belongs to them.

“There is still plenty of confusion but it comes from the mining companies and the department.

“Since the permits were issued we have been working with the various stakeholders to set up structures that will be in a position to address our common concerns and deal with challenges as they arise.

“We are confident but the problem isn’t with us. The problems lie with government.

“The court needs to give clarity about which parts of the farm Kenilworth and Dorstfontein the judgments refer to as the second order was granted without the court knowing which areas were relevant.”

The agreement, which was signed by representatives of the regional Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), the KEM-JV, the Sol Plaatje Municipality and the AMKC on April 26, saw the DMR issue mining permits to the Batho Pele Primary and Goedemoed Trading co-operatives.

These companies were established by the AMKC’s members, who are now allowed to continue legal operations on two identified sites at Kenilworth and Colville.

As per the agreement, the KEM-JV offered the conditional transfer of ownership of 337.8ha in the vicinity of the Boshof Floors, Buffalo Camp and Kenilworth corridor but retained unfettered access to the surface rights of all their property including the transferred sites.

The DMR agreed to expedite the applications for the artisanal miners’ prospecting rights for two additional sites, within three months, while also prioritising ministerial approval of mining rights with respect to properties that were acquired by the KEM-JV from De Beers.

However, an interdict restricting the artisanal miners from entering thousands of hectares of farmland, owned by De Beers, or prospecting for diamonds, was granted in the Northern Cape High Court just days before the agreement was signed at the end of April.

This application was brought by the mining cartel against Seekoei and several other leaders, as well as “the unidentified illegal miners”, and sought a final interdict against the respondents from entering the relevant sites described as Kenilworth Estate 71 and Dorstfontein 77 (Farm Kenilworth Estate 71, which is a total of 6037.5817 hectares, and the Farm Dorstfontein 77, a total of 132.767 hectares).

Other respondents included the MECs of Environmental Affairs and Nature Conservation, Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs and Transport, Safety and Liaison, as well as the ministers of Mineral Resources, Police and Home Affairs, the Northern Cape Provincial Commissioner and Ekapa Minerals.

Giving the background, Judge Bulelwa Pakati pointed out that on November 30, 2015 De Beers entered into a Sale of Business Agreement for the processing of tailing mineral resources (“TMRs”) at Kimberley Mines.

This was in reference to the TMR dump sold to Ekapa Minerals and the KEM-JV for the purposes of retreating of TMRs.

She explained that the MEC and ministers, as well as Ekapa, were cited as their departments would have an interest in the relief sought.

Judge Pakati pointed out that De Beers argued that the unauthorised presence of the artisanal miners and their illegal mining activities on the farms resulted in Ekapa Minerals successfully bringing an application to the Northern Cape High Court seeking an interdict restraining them from trespassing and mining.

“The artisanal miners do not dispute that they mine the ‘abandoned floors’ on De Beers’ farms. Their opposition is based on tacit and express consent allegedly given by De Beers and Ekapa Minerals which they claim has not been validly terminated.

“It is also common cause that De Beers is a holder of a mining right and is the registered owner of the farms.”

Pakati further pointed out that the relief sought by De Beers only seeks to cover the Farm Kenilworth Estate 71, and the Farm Dorstfontein.