The Khuthala Environmental Care Group (KECG) and Groundwork, Environmental Justice Action recently hosted a three-day International Coal Exchange Programme in Ermelo.
Various coal-affected communities and activists from the Highveld were joined by mining-affected activists from various African countries.
The objective was to build solidarity among the communities, to share their struggles, to learn from one another’s experiences and also to learn about the coal impacts around Ermelo and surrounding areas.
The exchange, also known as the “Toxic Tour”, happens annually to maintain the solidarity that is building momentum in the struggle and rehabilitation of mines.
Environmental activists from Benin, Botswana, Ghana and Senegal, just to name a few, spent the first day touring Eskom’s Camden Power Station to witness first hand the affects of a coal-fired power station.
Day two saw the activists visiting the old Imbabala Mine near the Marikana informal settlement in Wesselton where the damage after a mining company has finished digging the land, was seen.
The activists listened to stories shared by former miners and families of victims who had drowned in the huge holes left behind.
During the tour, they experienced a myriad of emotions and were shocked when illegal miners, known as Zama Zamas, emerged as they were standing near one of the holes.
The last of the tour saw the activists come together to talk about their tour experiences and compose a statement that will be presented at COP24 (Conference of Parties) in Poland in the latter part of the year.
In the statement the activists mention solutions to raise awareness about the impacts of coal mining which mainly are:
• Government should ensure that communities are fully conversant and aware of environmental laws or legislation.
• Communities are consulted to give free prior informed consent.
• Monitoring and compliance enforcement.
• Government makes it compulsory to include indigenous and world heritage sites within the social environmental impact assessment study.
• Communities to be involved in rehabilitation of abandoned mines and land.
“Overall it was a good tour and we have learned so much and gained a lot of knowledge and wisdom to use in the fight to rehabilitate old mines,” KECG spokesman, Mr Zethu Hlatshwayo, said.
The group closed off the tour with a hearty lunch and most of the activists present said it was a fruitful programme.
“Climate change affects every human being on earth, it is our mission to make people aware of it,” KECG chairman, Mr Philani Mngomezulu, said.
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