Community and environmental groups took a beating - twice - when they challenged a major mining company in the courts. But they remain determined to fight all the way to the Constitutional Court.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
It takes a brave legal team to contest a 4-1 majority ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal. But that is the decision taken by a group of lawyers representing groups opposed to the expansion of one of South Africa's biggest anthracite coal mines. Their position is that government has a constitutional duty to safeguard their health and the environment by providing carefully considered authorisation for all major developments - including mining industry activities that have long been shielded from direct oversight by the Department of Environmental Affairs.
But while this battle drags on in the genteel atmosphere of courtrooms, the people affected by 14 years of mining in the Somkhele area near Mtubatuba in KwaZulu-Natal have been living with water and air pollution. They have been pulled apart by violent conflicts, lost homes and farming land and faced the murder of 63-year-old anti-mining campaigner, Mam' Fikile Ntshangase, by three unknown gunmen in October last year.