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South African communities demand Rio Tinto respects their right to consent

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10 October, 2012About 500 protestors from communities affected by platinum mining in Limpopo, South Africa marched to Anglo Platinum's Mogalakwena Mine on 28 September to hand over demands to the company as well as to Platreef Resources, that sent a representative to receive memoranda.

The most urgent of the demands relate to the action of Platreef, a subsidiary of Ivanhoe Mines (Pty) Ltd, of which Rio Tinto is the majority shareholder. Communities on the land where Platreef intends to build a tailing dam, accuse the company of sidestepping community members, by engaging only with the traditional leaders, some of whom they allege have accepted bribes and another that holds a senior position at Platreef.  

Platinum companies have been criticised for manipulating the system of communal land ownership, a legacy of South Arica’s past. These companies consult only with traditional leaders and avoid gaining the consent of the majority of community members, mostly rural subsistence farmers, who will be displaced or have their livelihoods threatened by the mining activities.

However protestors allege that the land where Platreef intends to construct its tailing dam, has been given directly to named community members through a post apartheid land claim and is not held in the trust of traditional leaders.

Platreef representatives were chased away by community members the week before the march when they attempted to hold a public hearing as part of the required environmental impact assessment process. Communities demand that before any mining takes place, their free prior informed consent is obtained so that they may participate in their development path.

Demands were also made to Anglo Platinum for their immediate engagement on the impact of their mining activity on those living adjacent to the mine and to address the needs and concerns of communities that have been resettled in poor quality housing, with service delivery problems and inadequate means to sustain their livelihoods.