A legal battle about the relocation of ancestral graves which has delayed the development of potentially the largest underground platinum mine in the world has finally been laid to rest.
A group of members of the Masehlaneng community in Limpopo in November last year obtained an interim interdict stopping South African mining company Ivanplats from proceeding with the relocation of graves on the site of a new giant platinum mine in Limpopo.
Ruling in favour of Ivanplats, Judge John Murphy discharged the interim interdict, allowing the company to proceed with the process of relocating graves. The company obtained permits for the relocation of 94 graves from the Heritage Resources Authority and the Limpopo Cooperative Governance Department and had already relocated 54 graves with permission of next-of-kin relatives when the interdict stopped them from proceeding.
The applicants opposed the relocation of the remaining 30 graves, claiming there was no consent and that the permits were flawed.
Judge Murphy said it appeared from the founding papers that consent was only disputed in relation to three of the graves while the vast majority of families in the community supported the relocation. This was because the graves would be moved to formal cemeteries closer to their homes.
The mine agreed to pay for the exhumations and re-burial ceremonies, including the costs of new burial plots, coffins, undertakers, transport and refreshments.
The judge said the Platreef mine represented one of the most significant foreign direct investments into the South African economy in recent years. It had the potential to be developed into the largest underground platinum mine in the world, yielding significant benefits to the economy of South Africa, Mokopane and the Limpopo province.
The interdict delayed the development of the mine infrastructure and would cause significant prejudice to Ivanplats and the broader community if allowed to stand. He pointed out that Ivanplats and the local communities had concluded empowerment transactions whereby the mine would establish a community training centre and committed to initiatives such as mentorship, bursaries and upgrading schools.
The judge did not grant a costs order against the applicants.