Kgobudi community challenges Platreef interdict to keep off land

Today the Mokopane Interested and Affected Community Committee (“MIACC”) represented by Lawyers for Human Rights challenged an interim interdict of Ivanplat Resources against the entire community of Kgobudi (part of the Mokopane). Ivanplat obtained an interim order against the Kgobudi in May this year, interdicting and restraining any member of the Kgobudi community from entering an area within the radius of 200m from the mine’s drilling operations. Since these drilling operations are in the residential area of Kgobudi and in grazing and maize fields, residents in the area were in effect prevented from accessing their planting and grazing fields and in the extreme situation, prevented from accessing their own homes.

The MIACC argued that it is not permissible in law to cite the entire community as nameless respondents in an indiscriminate manner. And, that it is legally untenable to state that an entire community is acting unlawfully or is intending to act unlawfully. Ivanplat sought the interim order against the entire community comprising some 14 000 people after a group of approximately 150 disgruntled residents protested against the manner of the ongoing prospecting in the area.

Ivanplat Resources (Pty) Ltd is a company registered in Canada operating here as Platreef. Platreef has been prospecting for platinum in the Kgobudi community area since 2000. It has recently expanded its operations and plan to start an open cast mine with bulk sampling facilities on 20October. While residents in the community initially endured Platreef’s presence within their community, community members have recently started to confront the mine and question its right to prospect in the residential area of Kgobudi and in their grazing and maize fields - without regard to the rights of each and every resident of the community.

During prospecting, Platreef operates drilling rigs in front of residents’ homes without regard to their safety. These drills operated virtually day and night cause severe dust, noise and have also raised concerns about water pollution. Moreover, the community dispute the authority of the traditional leaders who signed the consent agreements with Platreef relating to the ongoing prospecting. Notwithstanding customary law, each individual is still a deemed landowner in his own right.

The community lodged a complaint with the Department of Mineral Resources (“DMR”) in February that Platreef was acting unlawfully in terms of its prospecting permit, and that it was failing to consult meaningfully with the community. DMR then ordered Platreef to engage with all affected communities, and also ordered Platreef to refrain from conducting prospecting activities on land compromising residential area or on land being used for public purposes. Land being used for public purposes include the grazing filed which the communities’ cattle graze on and the maize field on which they plant and harvest maize.

After the order Platreef discontinued its prospecting operations. However, during the latter half of April, Platreef brought its drilling rigs back to the residential area as well as the grazing and maize fields. This caused mounting frustrations within the community. Flowing from this, a fraction of the residents, amounting to less than 1% of the community, engaged in protest against Platreef – ostensibly leading to Platreef pursuing this interdict against the Kgobudi.

Judgment was reserved.

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