Exxaro mine pollutes Belfast family’s farmland and water

Vusimuzi Sindane and his family from Leeu Bank farm near Belfast in the Mpumalanga Highveld live a miserable life because of mine operations in their back yard.

The family’s trouble started in 2007 when mining giant Exxaro bought the farm and evicted the residents.

During the eviction, the Sindane family refused to relocate as they were not happy with the mining company’s offer.

“We are surrounded by mining activities, and it is affecting us very badly. Young children are being negatively affected by the noise and the dust that comes from the mines.

“Every day huge trucks from the mine pass near our houses, causing cracks,” said Sindane.

“We already lost 18 cattle due to water pollution and lack of grazing area because of the dust that covers the grass and pollutes the water. The reason we are refusing to relocate is that the mine offered us small houses, which cannot accommodate our furniture.”

Sindane, whose family stayed on the farm for more than 50 years, complained that residents were not benefiting from the mining companies operating in the area.

The family wants the mining company to offer them good houses or to stop operating in their backyard.

Sindane and his family have asked for help from the Vulamehlo Kusile Foundation, a non-profit organisation that fights for the rights of farm dwellers.

“We are working with other stakeholders to assist the Sindane family. The court case between the mining company and the family continues,” said the foundation’s spokesperson, Solly Masilela.

According to Masilela, the Sindane family was not the only one suffering at the hands of the mining companies in Mpumalanga.

He said there were more than 500 families faced with a similar situation.

“The foundation is working on many cases, including the one in which a mining company illegally exhumed graves and reburied the remains in a shallow grave, as well as a case where families were victimised after refusing to be relocated.”

Recently, a joint delegation of the parliamentary portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development and the portfolio committee on employment and labour, conducted an oversight visit to the province’s Nkangala and Gert Sibande districts to assess the living and working conditions of farm dwellers.

“As the legal battle continues, the mine continues to operate and this poses a safety risk and health hazard to the family and their livestock, as they are exposed to explosions and their source of water for their livestock is being poisoned by the mine’s wastewater,” the committee said in a statement.

The chairperson of the portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development, Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, condemned the “injustice and inhumane treatment of farm dwellers and the failure to handle eviction matters fairly”.

Mzila Mthenjane, Exxaro’s executive head for stakeholder affairs refused to comment.

“The matter is now in court and we cannot comment further,” Mthenjane said.

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