TORMIN MINE: Environmental attorneys / activist defy mining company’s bully tactics and costly lawsuit

Three female environmentalists – two Cape Town lawyers and a West Coast community activist – have been slapped with a costly lawsuit for defamation after publicly speaking up against the notorious Tormin mine near Lutzville.

Melissa Fourie, Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), said such strategic lawsuits against public participation are a common phenomenon in the international mining industry.  “It is the modus operandi of powerful mining companies to intimidate, distract, discourage and sow fear in communities in order to dissuade all criticism and opposition”, she said.

This comes after the owner of the Tormin mineral sands mine, Mineral Sands Resources, sued CER attorneys Tracey Davies and Christine Reddell, as well as outspoken Lutzville activist Davine Cloete, for defamation and claiming all-together R1,250 M in damages.

“The claims will be strenuously defended,”  Fourie said in the underneath press release issued earlier today:


 Photo: Melissa Fourie, Chief Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER)

CER to resist attempts by Australian mining company to intimidate attorneys and activists

A subsidiary of Australian mining company Mineral Commodities Limited (MRC), known for its controversial attempts to mine mineral sands at Xolobeni on the Wild Coast, has sued two Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) attorneys for defamation, claiming R500 000 in damages, as well as a West Coast activist from Lutzville for another R750 000.

The summons alleges that CER attorneys Tracey Davies and Christine Reddell, along with a local community activist from the West Coast, Davine Cloete, made defamatory statements about MRC’s subsidiary company, Mineral Sands Resources (MSR) and its director, Zamile Qunya, during presentations at the University of Cape Town’s Summer School in January this year.

Davies, Reddell and Cloete gave presentations about MSR’s environmentally destructive Tormin mineral sands mine situated on the West Coast, approximately 350 kilometers north of Cape Town.

From Left: CER attorneys Tracey Davies and Christine Reddell; and activist Davine Cloete.








MSR has claimed R250 000 in damages from eah of our attorneys, and a further R750 000 from Cloete.

Strategic lawsuits against public participation, popularly known as “SLAPP” suits, are intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defence until they abandon their criticism or opposition. They are also aimed at sending a message to all activists that resisting that company, and others like it, poses personal risk. SLAPP suits have been made illegal in many jurisdictions around the world on the grounds that they impede freedom of speech.

As a civil society organisation that works to help communities and civil society organisations in South Africa realise our Constitutional right to a healthy environment, by advocating and litigating for environmental justice, such threats cannot be tolerated. The claims will be strenuously defended.

This is not the first time that MRC has sued activists who have criticised the company. Last year, MRC and its CEO Mark Caruso sued Cape Town attorney Cormac Cullinan, Amadiba Crisis Committee activist Mzamo Dlamini, and John Clarke, a social worker, all for defamation in relation to the company’s involvement at Xolobeni. These claims are also being defended.

The controversial proposal by MRC to mine the sand dunes of Xolobeni on the Wild Coast has been persistently opposed by many local residents, led by the Amadiba Crisis Committee. In March 2016, Crisis Committee Chair Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe was assassinated at this home in Pondoland. Despite a public outcry, no-one has been arrested for his murder.

At Tormin, local communities and environmental activists have raised numerous concerns about the legality of MSR’s mineral sands mining operation. In September 2016, environmental authorities obtained and executed a search warrant at Tormin. In response, MSR sued the Magistrate who issued the warrant and the environmental authorities involved in the search and seizure operation.

While the Western Cape High Court in its judgement in March 2017 set aside the search warrant on the basis that the environmental authorities had overstepped their jurisdiction, the court confirmed that MSR had expanded its operations without the required environmental authorisation. The court also questioned the lawfulness of other actions by MSR, including whether the mine was responsible for the devastating cliff collapse in the area, but refrained from making findings on these points given the narrow focus of the court case.

Read the official summons here:

Also read the background to the latest legal warfare here:

Tormin Mine plans to extend its mining activities along West Coast shores despite watershed Supreme Court Case


Drie mynbase aangekla oor besoedeling van omgewing

Drie direkteure van die Blyvooruitzicht- en Village Main Reef-goudmyn wat geleë is die plaas Blyvooruitzicht, Doornfontein, en Varkenslaagte buite Carltonville, word deur ’n boete van tot R10 miljoen of 10 jaar tronkstraf in die gesig gestaar weens die beweerde ernstige besoedeling en agteruitgang van die omgewing.

Dalubuhle Ncube, Paul Marius Saaiman en Mark Burrell moes Vrydag in die streekhof in Marofeng verskyn het, maar het nie opgedaag nie. Die saak is op versoek van die staat tot 21 Julie uitgestel sodat nog ’n mynmaatskappy in die omgewing of sy direkteure by die klagstaat gevoeg kan word.

’n Lasbrief vir die inhegtenisneming van Ncube, Saaiman en Burrell sal op daardie dag uitgereik word as hulle nie by die hof opdaag nie.

Die 3 mans is aangekla van elf oortredings van die Nasionale Omgewingsbestuurswet (Nema) asook die Wetsontwerp op die Ontwikkeling van Minerale en Petroleumhulpbronne (MPRDA).

Omgewingsregkenners meen die saak kan ’n presedent skep vir die direkteure van mynmaatskappye wat ’n myn laat likwideer in ’n poging om weg te kom van die verantwoordelikheid om die gebied te rehabiliteer.

Mariette Liefferink, direkteur van die Federasie vir ’n Volhoubare Omgewing (FVO), het in Februarie 2014 kriminele klagtes teen die direkteure van DRD Gold en Village Main Reef by die polisie in Carltonville weens die besoedeling van die omgewing aanhangig gemaak.

Die Groen Skerpioene het die mans verlede maand aangekla.

Hulle word onder meer daarvan beskuldig dat hulle die Wonderfonteinspruit met massiewe hoeveelhede uraan (wat in die mynafval teenwoordig is) besoedel het. Hulle is glo deur die owerheid beveel om die mynafval op te ruim, maar het nagelaat om dit te doen.

Die direkteure het na bewering van Junie tot Oktober 2014 geen stofkontrole gedoen nie en hul omgewingsbestuursplan telkens oortree.

Luidens die klagstaat meen die departement van minerale bronne dit sal sowat R143 miljoen kos om die omgewing te rehabiliteer. Luidens ’n brief wat in Augustus 2013 aan die beskuldigdes geskryf is, was daar ’n tekort van sowat R108 miljoen in die mynhuise se rehabilitasiefonds. Die tekort is na bewering nooit aangevul nie.

Adv. Kenny Oldwadge tree namens die direkteure van die Blyvooruitzichtmyn op.

* Die Blyvoortuitzichtmyn het in die jare tussen 1950 en 1960 byna die helfte van die wêreld se goud geproduseer.

Die Wonderfonteinspruit vloei deur die Gerhard Minnebron (’n waterbron) in die Mooirivier waaruit Potchefstroom sy water kry.


Report violations of environmental rights to the 24-hour Environmental Crimes & Incidents Hotline on 0800 205 005. More reports of environmental violations assist in justifying more investment in more inspectors, and more enforcement of environmental laws. Numbers matter! Take the time to report violations, even if you have done so elsewhere. For more information about this CER campaign, visit


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