“Our grievances first need to be resolved before any mining activities can commence”
BUSINESS operations and traffic leading into the town of Prieska came to a halt on Thursday as angry community members barricaded roads with burning tyres and parked cars to highlight their grievances concerning planned mining operations by Orion Minerals.
The protesting residents shut down all roads leading into the town in an angry response to a planned site visit by Orion Minerals mine management.
They threatened to bring the entire town to a standstill should mine management and Siyathemba Municipality not adhere to their grievances.
“We have closed the Copperton road, the road to De Aar and Kimberley and the road to Niekerkshoop. Nobody will be allowed to come into or out of town – including those employed at the solar plant and wind farm or any of the farms in the area. Community members who have planned trips to neighbouring towns will also have to cancel them as we are fighting for the rights of the entire community,” the protesters said.
“We are tired of these mining companies who just come and take over our towns then leave the people of the town to suffer. These mining companies just extract minerals and then leave the town hollow after they have taken what they wanted. The people are left with nothing.”
They said that they had decided to launch the protest action after they received information that Orion mine management was planning a site visit.
“We heard that the management from the mine is coming for a site visit. We have told the municipality that there are still several matters, which we stated in our memorandum, that we handed to Orion Minerals as well as the municipality, that have not been addressed. Those matters first need to be resolved before any mining activities can commence.
“We have also had word that Orion Minerals wants all companies to do final submissions as part of this site visit. We are also stopping that, as the final submissions cannot continue until all matters have been resolved.
“The municipality assured us that they will contact the mine management and put a stop to the visit. The municipality has not done that and we see that they are in cahoots with the mining company.”
The mayor of Siyathemba Municipality, Gloria Speelman, urged community leaders and members to have “open and honest” communication with the council.
“I had a meeting with community representatives, where they requested me to stop the management from Orion,” Speelman said on Thursday. “I informed the representatives that I would have to call a council meeting, where the council would authorise me officially to stop a meeting with Orion. I, as mayor, do not have the executive powers to stop such a meeting or even make such a decision.
“I requested a council meeting on Monday, April 26, but none of the local councillors showed up for that meeting. I again requested a meeting on Wednesday, April 28, but only three local councillors showed up to that meeting. The request from the community members could thus not be addressed and I could not take a decision to stop the Orion meeting since I did not have the authority from council to do so.
“I did, however, fail in giving feedback to the community representatives about the fact that the two council meetings could not sit.
“However, we were informed about the shutdown on Wednesday afternoon and it appeared as thought the organisers were set on carrying out their (protest) plans.”.
Speelman said that constructive dialogue and not violent protest is the only way to resolve the matter.
“We had a meeting with community representatives during the protest. We have urged them to first communicate with the council before taking matters to the streets. They need to take cognisance that there are some matters that the entire council needs to address and matters cannot be addressed by individuals,” she said.
Northern Cape police spokesperson Colonel Dimakatso Mooi said no arrests had been made during the protest.
“The protesters were burning tyres in front of the municipal offices. No arrests or damage to property has been reported. The local police, with the assistance of the Public Order Policing unit, are on the ground monitoring the situation,” said Mooi.
Orion Minerals failed to respond to media enquiries by the time of going to press.