Children’s cultural rights enter court battle over coal mining rights
SOUTH AFRICA runs on mines but there should be limits, says a University of Pretoria children’s litigation unit, which has joined in the legal battle over mining near the culturally sensitive Mapun- gubwe World Heritage Site.
This week, the Centre for Child Law applied to intervene as amicus curiae in the interdict application arising from the granting of a mining right to Limpopo Coal, a subsidiary of Australian company, CoAL of Africa, near the site.
“We’re acting in the public interest on behalf of children because they can’t act for themselves,” says Carina du Toit, an attorney at the centre. “They don’t have anyone to say what their rights are in respect of preserving the environment for themselves and their children and their children’s children.”
Limpopo Coal is in a battle with a lobby of environmental and conservation groups over its plans to operate a 8500ha open-cast and underground mine less than 6km from the boundary of the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape.
“But it’s not just about the environment, it’s about our culture. There are very few African heritage sites that we know about the history of people and what they did. This site tells you those people traded with India and China so there’s a lot of value in preserving the cultural heritage of the area… This country runs on mines but there should be limits,” said Du Toit.
“I don’t know how much difference it will make in the end but it’s something that will have to be taken into account because there are quite heavy interests weighing on the side of the mine and the economic development of the area,” said Du Toit.
This is the first time in an environmental case that a party is seeking to protect children’s rights under Section 24 of the Constitution.