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Newsflash: Mining Minister agrees to disclose De Beers’ Namaqualand Mines records to Conservation South Africa

17 September 2015 at 9:00 am

IMG_0785After a 2½ year battle for access to key environmental records from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) regarding the sale by De Beers of its Namaqualand Mines, the Western Cape High Court confirmed today, in an order by agreement, that the Minerals Minister and the DMR must provide those records to civil society organisation Conservation South Africa.

The order included the High Court setting aside the DMR’s refusal of Conservation SA’s requests for access to information in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) and setting aside the Minister of Mineral Resources’ deemed refusal of the internal appeals lodged against the DMR’s refusals. It also included the High Court ordering the Minister, DMR and De Beers to pay Conservation SA’s legal costs.

The documents in question are expected to provide insight into information provided to the DMR by De Beers in substantiation of the reduction of the financial provision funding for environmental rehabilitation at Namaqualand Mines prior to the sale to a TransHex subsidiary – a reduction that is reportedly as much as 70%.

The requested documents include the record of decision by the Minister of Mineral Resources consenting to the transfer of the relevant mining and prospecting rights to TransHex. This ministerial decision should have been, but was not, subject to public participation by interested and affected parties.

De Beers withdrew its opposition to Conservation SA’s application for disclosure of the documents in April 2015 – after the Minister’s approval of the transfer of De Beers’ mining rights to TransHex was secured behind closed doors.

Mitchellsbay5CER Attorney and Mining Programme Head Catherine Horsfield says, “There is a trend in South Africa for large, established, frequently multinational mining companies to pull out most of a resource and then sell their mining rights to lesser known, less established mining companies. Because the DMR does not require public participation in these transfers, the transfers fly under the radar. These smaller companies then pull out what is left of the resource and cannot afford to clean up – they go into liquidation or deregister. Environmental rehabilitation of the abandoned mines then falls to the state. The benefits to the broader South African community of public scrutiny of these transactions are numerous.”

“It has been disappointing to see a company of De Beers international stature fail to adhere to their own corporate commitments to transparency.  They have known they are operating in a place that is globally unique and an incredible part of South Africa’s natural heritage, the Succulent Karoo. Yet the delays in deliberate legal wrangling to prevent disclosure of information that should be available for public scrutiny has potentially risked both the environmental integrity of the Namaqualand Coast and the communities that live there” said Sarah Frazee, Director of Conservation SA in April this year, after De Beers withdrew its opposition to disclosure – after approval of the transfer.

Previous media releases about this case:

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Conservation South Africa (CSA) is a local conservation public benefit organisation and affiliate of Conservation International (CI). CSA is committed to helping societies adopt a more sustainable approach to development – one that considers and values nature at every turn.

Watch a film by the Bench Mark Foundation about the experiences of Namaqualand communities here: Suffering is forever: Ensuring proper rehabilitation pursuant to sale of Namaqualand Mine, Northern Cape (Hondeklipbay community)