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Mining community networks in court to challenge Mining Charter

- Lee-Anne Bruce

CALS is in the Pretoria High Court this week for a review of the 2018 Mining Charter which we believe was developed without meaningfully engaging communities

This week, the High Court in Pretoria is set to hear a review of the Mining Charter first brought by the Minerals Council of South Africa. Mining community networks, individual communities and trade unions have all joined the review following a High Court order. CALS represents MACUA and WAMUA, two of the country’s largest community networks, and argues that the Charter was developed without meaningfully engaging the communities it impacts.

The Mining Charter is intended as a tool for addressing inequality and promoting transformation in the mining sector in our country. Yet, the Charter itself has a history of being developed without engaging the very people it is meant to benefit: mining-affected communities. Communities have fought to change that, with networks like Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) and Women Affected by Mining United in Action (WAMUA) joining a High Court case challenging the Charter. In February 2018, they secured a historic victory, with the High Court declaring communities were key stakeholders in mining who must be consulted on the laws and policies that impact them.

Despite this, the public participation process on the new Mining Charter in the months that followed was entirely inadequate. Task teams on the Charter did not feature community representation; consultations with communities were set up with little notice in unclear venues without enough room to accommodate all those who wished to attend. Community members were at times addressed in a language which was not the main language of the area and were not given enough time to air their concerns about the draft Charter. A revised Mining Charter published in September 2018 therefore did not reflect mining communities’ needs or views.

In March 2019, the Minerals Council of South Africa (the former Chamber of Mines) brought a new review of the most recent Mining Charter against the Minister of Mineral Resources. In June last year, the High Court ordered that mining-affected communities and trade unions have direct and substantial interests in the proceedings and must be joined. This includes community networks like MACUA and WAMUA who are represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, as well as other community networks and individual mining-affected communities.

The full review is now set to be heard virtually by the High Court in Pretoria from 3 – 6 May 2021.

Read our heads of argument here.

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