Chil­dren’s cul­tural rights en­ter court bat­tle over coal min­ing rights

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - BUSINESS - SHEREE BEGA

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.

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