On Wednesday, 11 September 2019, in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, South Africa, a strong legal team is determined to ensure the right to appeal the dismissal of GET & MCEJO’s application exposing Tendele coal mine’s lack of compliance with environmental laws and the Constitution, and to ensure the mining sector complies with the law.

MEDIA RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Originally published 10 September, 2019, by SaveOurWilderness.org

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa – On Wednesday, 11 September 2019, at 9h00, the Application for Leave to Appeal last year’s ruling in favour of Tendele Coal Mining (Pty) is set to be heard in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

On 20 November 2018, Judge Rishi Seegobin dismissed the application by the Global Environmental Trust (GET), Sabelo Dladla, a 24-year old activist who grew up next to the Tendele mine, and the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) that challenged Tendele’s non-compliance with environmental, planning, waste management authorisations, and cultural heritage legislation.

The judge ordered GET and MCEJO to pay the legal costs of the mine.

Setting

Tendele mine is situated 6 km away from the iMfolozi Wilderness Area, part of the historic Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park (HiP) and a sanctuary for rhinos for 110 years, drawing thousands of local and foreign visitors every year. The mine has been operating since 2007 without any environmental authorisations or a waste management licence.

At the time of the judgment last year, attorney Catherine Horsfield, who represents the Cape Town-based Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), expressed concern that the ruling has broad national implications. Specifically she stated that it “may open the door” for companies to disregard environmental laws and safeguards in the Constitution of South Africa. Ms. Horsfield also considered the judge’s punitive costs ordered against two community-based environmental groups to have a “chilling” legal effect. She feared it might negatively impact other vulnerable peoples from instituting public-interest litigation against powerful mining companies. CER has applied to be amicus curiae (or friends of the court for MCEJO and GET) in the Application for Leave to Appeal. Ms. Horsfield and advocate Max du Preez will attend the hearing to provide additional information to the court.

The legal team that will represent Mr. Dladla, GET and MCEJO on 11 September include lead attorney, Kirsten Youens, assisted by Janice Tooley Attorneys, EIA specialists; Johan Lorenzen of Richard Spoor Attorneys; and advocates Mawande Mazibuko and Tembeka Ngcukaitobi. The team is determined to obtain leave to appeal Judge Seegobin’s ruling in the Supreme Court in Bloemfontein.

Two independent publications, one by the South African Human Rights Commission and the other by Human Rights Watch, cited Tendele as one of the mines disregarding the human rights of mining affected communities in SA, with the Somkhele/ Mpukunyoni residents being one of them.

This will open the way to achieving support from the South African courts into greater compliance by the mining sector. And, this court case gives an opportunity to South Africa’s judicial system to the coal mining sector that companies in breach of the country’s laws and regulations.

With the Global Climate Strike taking place on 20 September 2019, there is strong evidence of increasing momentum to hold companies and governments to account and to put pressure on them to reduce fossil fuel expansion and dependence in order to prevent the increasing threat of devastating climate impacts.

Wednesday 11 September 2019 offers an opportunity for South Africa to demonstrate alignment with this international trend for sustainability.

CONTACT:  Kirsten Youens, youens@youensattorneys.co.za or Sabelo Dladla, sabelodladla1@gmail.com.

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