Newly-formed South African environmental NPC, Protect The West Coast, celebrates legal ruling against Australian-owned mining company’s ‘SLAPP’ defamation suits.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Tuesday, March 2, 2021
A legal ruling in early February against both Western Australian mining company, Mineral Resources Commodities Limited* (MRC) and its locally-based subsidiary Mineral Sands Resources Limited (MSR), has been welcomed by Protect The West Coast (PTWC), a Cape Town-based environmental Not-For-Profit Company (NPC) formed to oppose increasing mining operations by MRC and other companies on the West Coast of South Africa.
“This ruling is a major coup for the environment and its protection, and we plan on using it to put more pressure on both the government and the miners by bringing more factual information into the public domain,” said Mike Schlebach, the driving force behind PTWC. ”By doing this we will encourage better oversight, accountability and alternatives. Many of MRC’s mining activities in South Africa would not be allowed on their home turf in Australia and we are quite confused as to why its shareholders and the good people of Australia are allowing this.”
PTWC rapidly gains local and international support
Since its formation in November 2020, PTWC has made significant inroads towards its cause, rapidly gaining support in South Africa and internationally, including from top Australian professional surfer, Belinda Baggs, and Hawaii’s John John Florence, two-time world surfing champion.
“Many of MRC’s mining activities in South Africa would not be allowed on their home turf in Australia and we are quite confused as to why its shareholders and the good people of Australia are allowing this.” - Mike Schlebach, Protect The West Coast.
Schlebach, a Cape Town professional big wave surfer and West Coast regular, has assembled a PTWC Executive Committee composed of like-minded individuals, while a raft of concerned surfers and other West Coast lovers have also joined the cause, including South African big wave surfing world champion, Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker.
Now planning a short film focused on West Coast mining with celebrated filmmaker, Brian Little, some of the PTWC’s notable achievements since its inception include:
31 public appeals filed against an MSR Olifants River Estuary prospecting application (as opposed to 4 on the 10 Beach extension)*
More than 22,200 signatures and counting on its petition against the Tormin extension and Olifants Estuary prospecting directed at South African Minister of Forestry and Fisheries and Environmental Affairs Barbara Creecy
4,500 social media followers in less than three months
Significant engagement with like-minded activists, companies and organisations, including West Coast communities and the Western Cape First Nations Collective.
MRC and MSR ‘SLAPP’ suits “an abuse of process”
MRC and MSR launched several defamation cases – or what the six defendants in those cases alleged were ‘SLAPP’ suits – intended to silence stated opposition against MSR’s intention to mine heavy minerals at the Xolobeni mine near the Amadiba community in the Wild Coast region of South Africa’s Eastern Cape.
‘SLAPP’, an acronym for ‘Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation’, originated in the United States to describe “meritless or exaggerated lawsuits intended to intimidate civil society advocates, human rights defenders, journalists, academics and individuals as well as organisations acting in the public interest”.
Following several years of legal wrangling by MRC, MSR and controversial Australian Chief Executive Officer, Mark Caruso, the landmark ruling was handed down by Western Cape High Court deputy judge president Patricia Goliath on February 10, who stated, “SLAPP suits constitute an abuse of process, and are inconsistent with our constitutional values and scheme”.
The ruling, celebrated widely by environmentalists and affected communities, is a major victory in campaigning against mining companies that utilise the courts as a means to silence critics. It has emboldened PTWC in the fight against mining operations, which can result in devastating long-term damage to the environment and negatively affect local economies and communities.
END For more information, please consult the PTWC FAQs or contact PTWC media liaison Miles Masterson at firstname.lastname@example.org
About Protect The West Coast
Mining is becoming rampant on the beaches and offshore regions of the pristine West Coast of South Africa, which is causing devastating environmental damage, restricting public coastal access and adversely affecting local communities. While this has been going on for several decades, the area is currently under increasing siege by a slew of multinational mining companies that seem to have the unequivocal backing, or at least tacit approval, of the South African government, despite widespread concerns about the effect of their operations on the environment. There are numerous new mining applications in the pipeline and a proposal for a massive shipping port in Port Nolloth to support the industry.
The Not-For-Profit Company (NPC), Protect The West Coast (PTWC) was formed in November 2020 to bring global attention to what is happening along this fragile, remote stretch of coastline. Through information and activism, PTWC is on a mission to prevent the further destruction of this unique biodiverse region and to preserve it for future generations. It is vitally important that the people of the West Coast see alternatives to mining as a viable and sustainable long term solution to putting food on their tables, including tourism, conservation, small-scale commercial fishing and sport.
It is the objective of PTWC to hold both the mining sector and government accountable for their actions, including ensuring that mining companies do not deviate from their prescribed legally binding environmental responsibilities and that the government fully adheres to its oversight responsibilities.
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