Mafube mine blasting sparks community outcry

Dozens of farm dwellers near Middelburg in Mpumalanga’s highveld say their habitation next to a coal mine makes them feel like sitting on a volcano that could erupt anytime.

The families are accusing Mafube Coal Mine of causing flaring cracks in the walls of their houses through persistent blasting operations. The mine is co-owned by Exxaro and Thungela Resources Limited.

Residents of these close-knit communities say the mine has also desecrated their graves, destroyed their water sources and denied them grazing land in a bid to force them to make way for mining activities.

The affected families at Onverwacht and Nooitgedacht include the Mahlangu, Skhosana, Sindane, Ntuli, Sithole, Matshika, Matshiyane and Buda clans.

Some of the families have over the years pleaded with the mining company to relocate them to a safer location. Resistance by the mine has seen the communities taking the matter to the courts.

Themba Mahlangu of Onverwacht said the mine has helped some of their neighbours to relocate but refused to assist to move his family.

He said Exxaro has insisted their blasting will not affect their houses. However, the widening cracks on the walls tell a different story.

“We have several housing units on the yard as we are a big family. Whenever there is blasting, our houses are damaged,” said Mahlangu.

The Sindane family from Leeu Bank, a farm near Belfast, said even after taking the mining company to court for refusing to fund their relocation, they were not happy with the compensation offered.

Vusimuzi Sindane said even when the case was in court, mining operations continued.

Sindane said apart from the cracking walls, the dust raised by the mine trucks passing near their houses severely affected the health of his family members.

He complained about the family’s economic wellness being affected adversely by losing livestock, mainly cattle, through drinking water contaminated by mine operations.

“We lost 18 cattle to polluted water and the expansion of these mining activities has left us with no grazing land,” Sindane added.

Meanwhile, Mahlangu has written a letter to the department of mineral resources and energy (DMRE) asking for its intervention.

In response, DMRE ordered the mine “to not conduct any unnecessary blasting, but only when it’s essential”.

The letter further reads: “Based on the above reasons and in an attempt to safeguard the lives of persons at the mine and the community, the mine is hereby instructed to stop the use of explosives except to perform essential work, for example, the pumping of water.”

Bontle Mfolo, regional manager of Thungela Resources Limited, said Mafube Coal has conducted numerous interventions to contain the impact of her company’s mining activities on the communities.

“After a structural engineer inspected the house, the findings demonstrated that blasting activities have no impact on the Mahlangu home or its immediate surroundings. The blasting impact radius is two kilometres or less,” she said.

Mafube Coal spokesperson Tarryn Genis confirmed that the company has received grievances from residents. He said they were working towards compiling a response.

Visit SW YouTube Channel for our video content

Latest News