Peace accord signed in effort to resolve deadly KwaZulu-Natal coal mine expansion dispute

THE extension of the Tendele Coal Mine in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province is back on the agenda after parties contesting the development opted for arbitration over a court battle.

Petmin, the parent company of Tendele Coal Company, said in a press statement today a peace accord had been signed bearing the signatures of most of the key protagonists in the rolling conflict.

The dispute turns on compensating about ten families yet to agree to vacate their properties in order to make way for the expansion of the mine. In addition to protecting the rights of these community members, the dispute also involves environmentalists opposed to coal developments. On October 22, Fikile Ntshangase, an environmental activist who opposed the expansion, was murdered.

A reward of R20,000 each has been offered for information leading to the arrest of Ntshangase’s killers and those people who perpetrated violence against two other community members and activists, Petmin said today.

Petmin has argued in the past that failing to ensure the expansion of Tendele Coal Mine, which produces metallurgical or coking coal, would result in the loss of 1,600 direct jobs and affect the lives of up to 40,000 community members in the vicinity of the mine.

The areas into which Petmin wants to expand Tendele Coal Mine are situated away from current operations, the nearest pit of which is just 500 metres from the iMfolozi River, which is 4.7 kilometres from the confluence of the White iMfolozi and Black iMfolozi in KwaZulu-Natal.

Signatories to the peace accord include the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJBO), the local municipality, a representative from the Royal Family, the Mpukunyoni Community Mining Forum, and Tendele Coal – among others.

MCEJBO has agreed to withdraw its legal action against the expansion. An attorney, Kirsten Youens, has not signed the accord, however. Previously a representative of MCEJBO, Youens continues to stand for other voices in the dispute.

“If the mine can be saved, the mine will be in operation for another 10 years, and thereby able to continue to contribute to the economic development in this poverty-stricken area, where 72 percent of the household income is less than R2,000 per month,” said Petmin.