Picture: REUTERS/DAVID GRAY
Picture: REUTERS/DAVID GRAY

A handful of residents in the small town of Dingleton‚ near Sishen‚ are resisting attempts by Kumba Iron Ore to move them from their homes to make way for mining. This week, some residents claimed that rocks came down near their houses as Kumba started blasting close to the town‚ in what the residents see as a new attempt to force them to leave.

The blasting on Tuesday left the streets littered with shards of rock‚ residents said. Dingleton sits over iron ore that Kumba wants to mine. The 25 families refusing to move are demanding higher compensation for their homes than Kumba is offering.

The relocation of 517 households to the nearby town of Kathu began in 2014‚ and was meant to be completed by the end of 2016. Kumba says some of the residents requested the move.

"We believe that Kumba is mining illegally‚" said Jacob Rooiland‚ a resident of Dingleton who has refused to move. He said that although Kumba has the right to mine‚ the company should respect the buffer zone that prevents mining more than 500m from the town. In 2014‚ Kumba acknowledged that the expansion of the mine "is already encroaching on the buffer zone of the community".

Another resident refusing to move, Victor Andreas‚ echoes Rooiland’s words: "In my view they are mining illegally. They are currently mining very close. Luckily nobody got hurt during the blasting."

Kumba did not respond to a query about mining in the buffer zone. However, spokesperson Ghrethna Kruger told GroundUp that Tuesday’s blasting "resulted in pieces of fly rock landing in a vacant area of the Dingleton town". "No injuries have been recorded and there was no damage to houses that are currently occupied. We are investigating the incident and relevant steps will be taken to avoid a recurrence," she said.

Andreas confirmed that only unoccupied houses were damaged but‚ he said‚ there was an occupied house near one of the houses which had been hit and that it was a "close call". He also said a small child on a bicycle had narrowly missed being hit by a rock.

Richard Spoor‚ an attorney representing some of the residents‚ told GroundUp that despite it still being school holidays "rocks rained down on the village" on Tuesday. He said residents also had to contend with Kumba removing soil at night. People were battling to sleep because of the noise and dust‚ he said, and that Kumba was trying to "intimidate us and victimise us‚ to force us out of the area".

In 2013, Kumba offered residents the option of giving up their homes in Dingleton and receiving new ones in nearby Kathu. Kumba would pay relocation and property transfer costs‚ as well as paying the difference in property taxes and rates for about 25 years. Other benefits, such as a once-off inconvenience fee, were also part of the offer.

But the remaining residents believe that this is not fair compensation for their houses‚ situated over valuable iron ore. Andreas uses the example of having a property in Sea Point to illustrate this point. "A lot of things would influence the value of that flat. Table Bay is next to it‚ the sea is in front of you," he said, adding that while he understood that Kumba had the mining rights and that the iron ore belonged to the government‚ he was not prepared to give away his house in exchange for one in Kathu.

During the negotiations Kumba was "never prepared to honour our rights as private property owners"‚ he said. "They were dictating the terms."

"I’m not going to leave here on Kumba’s conditions‚" Rooiland said. "All of us are title deed owners. Kumba doesn’t see it that way."

Spoor said some of the residents who had relocated to Kathu were disappointed, and that some could not afford the municipal rates‚ even with Kumba’s subsidy, and that living conditions in Kathu were not the same as in Dingleton. "The process was not entirely transparent, he said. "There [have been] suggestions that people with political connections received substantially better deals than others."

This story originally appeared on GroundUp.

TMG Digital

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