Appeasing the ancestors has trumped an Australian
mining company's attempts to mine iron ore in the Thabazimbi area of Limpopo.
Aquila Steel SA, a subsidiary of an Australian company, wants to open an iron ore mine
in an area regarded by many residents and traditional healers as sacred.
The mine would create about 450 jobs.
But, in a ruling late last year, the SA Heritage Resources Agency said that all
exploratory mining activity near the Madimatle mountain and its caves must be
stopped for the next two years because of the site's cultural and religious
The agency has until the end of next year to decide if the area merits National
Aquila has appealed against the agency's ruling.
The Traditional Healers' Association of SA, philanthropist Grace Masuku and the
Kara Heritage Institute are opposing mining at Madimatle.
Many locals fear it will irreversibly damage the sacred site, which traditional
healers have used for generations to commune with their ancestors.
William Masokwine, 61, said the mine would "kill my culture and the ancestors will
be angered and cause drought".
Some say the noise of the mining would drown out the voices of the ancestors.
The resources agency heard that mining the site would deny people their
constitutional right to practise their religion.
Werksmans attorney Bulelwa Mabasa said that if mining rights were granted to Aquila her
clients would head for court.
A judge would be asked to decide whether the Heritage Resources Agency or the
Department of Mineral Resources had the last say.
Since February 2013 Aquila has prevented access to the mountain caves by putting up a
Since the agency made its ruling, the gate has been kept unlocked so that people can go
to the caves to pray.
Aquila has had prospecting rights since 2007 and has built 33km of road on the
Aquila Steel SA spokesman James Duncan said the company was appealing against the
resources agency's ruling and therefore could not comment.
Bernedette Muthien, a commissioner of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of
the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, said experts
would have to "weigh up economic development with community
Newsroom: Madimatle Mountain: http://youtu.be/yKI9LNFE4Qo