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Xolobeni: Mining applications should be made public

- Lee-Anne Bruce

CALS will be in the Pretoria High Court on 10 February, arguing that mining communities should be able to access mining rights applications

On Monday, 10 February, members of the Umgungundlovu community will appear in the Pretoria High Court, asking that communities be given access to mining rights applications of operations that may impact them. CALS has been admitted as a friend of the court in the matter and will be arguing that the current process for requesting access to information is flawed and may impede communities from exercising their rights.

In 2015, leaders of the Umgungundlovu community became aware of a mining rights application made by Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources to mine titanium deposits discovered around the Xolobeni area of the Eastern Cape, where the community lives and works. Concerned about the impact of the proposed mine on their way of life, members of the community sought access to the mining rights application. When they could not access the documents through either the company or the state, they approached the Court in line with the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

Subsequently, the community has been provided with a redacted version of the documents and has used them to support a strong objection to mining in the area. In fact, the community has secured a ground-breaking victory for all mining affected communities, with the Constitutional Court upholding the community’s right to say no to mining in their area and to decide their developmental path here. The community leaders are now asking the Court to ensure others are given the same opportunity, to ensure communities are able to freely access information about the mining operations that may impact them. This part of the litigation will be heard on Monday, 10 February.

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies supports the argument that mining rights applications should be public documents. We argue that, according to PAIA, these documents should be made automatically available, and that the current process for requesting access to information is flawed and places an unfair burden on communities. We hope to further assist the court by presenting evidence from reports by civil society on the difficulties in accessing information under PAIA, especially in the extractives industry.

“The Promotion of Access to Information Act is meant to give effect to the constitutional right of access to information, but we know that PAIA is flawed,” says Sithuthukile Mkhize, attorney at CALS. “Communities should be able to access information about the operations affecting them without submitting long, laborious, costly and time-consuming applications.”

Read our heads of argument here

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