1,500 jobs at risk if Somkhele mine not allowed to proceed, argues Tendele Coal

PETMIN said 1,500 employees would lose their jobs unless South African mines minister, Gwede Mantashe approved a mining licence and environmental management permit (EMPr) for the firm’s Somkhele anthracite mine operated by subsidiary, Tendele Coal.

The mine’s permits are in question following objections by environmental and community groups – led by the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organization (MCEJO) – to a mine extension that cuts close to the iMfolozi river in KwaZulu-Natal. The legal argument is that Tendele Coal’s proposed expansion is not correctly permitted in terms of the National Environment Management Act.

If the permits are granted, Tendele Coal will proceed with a 10-year mine expansion which it estimates will generate R4.7bn in community benefits over that period. Closure will result in 15,000 livelihoods being negatively affected, said Petmin.

The mine, which employs 1,500 people directly and indirectly, stands to close at the end of June when its existing resources have been depleted.

In addition to environmental concerns related to Somkhele’s expansion, non-governmental organisations have also argued that Tendele sufficiently compensate residents of areas that will be affected by the expansion.

The matter grabbed public attention following the killing in October, 2020 of Fikile Ntshangase, an activist who opposed the expansion.

Earlier this month, the Pretoria High Court sent the matter back to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy for a pragmatic response that would guide the court.

Commenting on the Tendele Coal expansion previously, South African mines minister, Gwede Mantashe has said the outcome depends on the view of the relevant community. “Our view is that the community has a responsibility to prove an assessment of benefit: will it benefit them to move and get alternative areas with the company compensating them for the movement, or close the mine because that is the option,” he said.