The dark side of living next to Seriti’s non-compliant Klipspruit Colliery   

By Fahdia Msaka


It was just 11 months ago, when the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), Gwede Mantashe, appeared on SABC proudly championing the continued use of toxic and deadly coal. 

The arrogant minister cut the ribbon at the Klipspruit mining site located 5km away from Phola township and Ogies in Mpumalanga. This was the moment when Mantashe unleashed a bombshell, announcing the devastating news that will have severe impacts on the surrounding communities for decades to come.

Seriti teamed up with Entity Blue Mining to open Klipspruit Colliery, the company’s first underground mine. This conversion from open-cast mining will expand the life of the mine by 25 years.

When Mantashe was pronouncing the big moves, he forgot to mention that the surrounding communities were never consulted about this. Officials like Mantashe and mining companies routinely exclude affected communities from participating in the decision-making processes that affect their lives. This brazen disregard for the value of people’s lives is standard practise for the DMRE as they routinely suppress the rights of communities affected by mining activities.

Now, almost two years since the underground Klipspruit colliery was opened, Seriti has failed to present any Social Labour Plans (SLP) to the communities, despite being legally obligated to do so.

In the SABC interview, Mantashe claimed that underground mining is the least destructive form of mining, minimising the calamity and threat that goes together with any form of coal mining.

However, in his deception, he conveniently forgets to tell the nation that the processes involved in extracting coal can not only weaken the ground and create conditions conducive for sinkholes to form he also deliberately forgets to take into account that the coal must come to the surface where the dust and its impact on the community will be devastating.

Last year, 15-year-old Siboniso Hleza reportedly sustained third-degree burn wounds after falling into a sinkhole with burning coal about a kilometre away from the Seriti mine operation. Hleza and his friends, going on about their day in youthful bliss, were unsuspecting of the horror awaiting them.

Another problem that residents complain about is the blasting caused by the mining activities in the area. This process causes ground and air vibration shockwaves that leave nearby communities with psychological and physical effects.


A life of living close to a mine


Nomsa Masilela is a resident of the Phola township. She said the thunderous blasts from the mine have become a disruptive force that are even wiping away precious and irreplaceable memories that money cannot buy.

“Sometime last week, when I was in my room, the mine was blasting, and I watched my roof as the cracks spread,” recalled Masilela with a deeply frightened tone.

Masilela’s family home is occupied by at least eight family members from different generations and the home has become a symbol of unity and togetherness. However, the blasting has stripped them away of basic human rights and dignity. 

The blasting is causing the foundation of their outside toilet to weaken and now it is stabilised with bricks. When the children use it, they must be monitored as they are likely to fall into the structure on the verge of collapse. The blasting has also damaged the ablution facility in the toilet, forcing them to collect water with buckets to refill it.

Health hazards of mining

 Respiratory illnesses are other common factors that impact young children and the elderly. Bongani Nkosi, MACUA’s coordinator for the Phola branch, has a 9-year-old daughter, Thembelihle, who suffers from sinusitis.

After consulting a medical professional, Nkosi and his family were told that the only way his daughter could have a normal and healthy life was for them to relocate where there was less pollution.

The air pollution from the Klipspruit colliery has affected Thembelihle so much that she faces breathing difficulties that disrupt her sleeping patterns, leading to tiredness and irritability during the day. 


Seriti’s non-compliance has worsened the state of the community

Seriti’s non-compliance with the SLP is constantly subjecting these communities to intense states of poverty and abuse. 

The Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) has been engaging community members and educating them about the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002 (MPRDA) regulations 46(a) and compliance with the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (NEMA) as per mining license holder obligation.

After numerous phone calls and emails over two years, Seriti had finally agreed to meet up with MACUA to address these challenges. Lebohang Lesenyeho, one of MACUA’s paralegals, alongside community representatives met up with Mokhine Makgalemele, Seriti’s community stakeholder and government relations manager.

In a state of intense frustration, Lesenyeho and the community representatives stormed out of the meeting appalled by the lack of empathy Makgalemele had for affected communities.

“He was not listening to understand our struggles but listening to answer us in an arrogant manner that implied we were ignorant in how mining legislation worked,” said Lesenyeho.

In the shadow of Seriti mine lies a stark reminder of the reality of the devastating impact of corporate greed over basic human rights and dignity. MACUA remains resolute in its dedication to amplifying the voices of communities affected by mining and confronting the injustices communities face.