Lekokoaneng communities take miners to task

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By ‘Majirata Latela

Communities living around Lekokoaneng in the Berea district have pleaded with the ministry of mining to intervene as the stone mines are not implementing any corporate social responsibility policies.

The stone mine is situated about 37km north of the city of Maseru where Lesotho Sand Stone is mining stones.

The communities around the mines are demanding the mines to take measures to improve their livelihood.

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Speaking at a public gathering held at Lekokoaneng this week, one of the residents Moeketse Mphole said ever since the arrival of Chinese-owned company Lesotho Sand Stone which is the biggest mine in the area, there is nothing that they can point at that the mine has ever done to improve the villagers’ lives.

“These mines around here have not done anything for us. Ever since they came here, they have not done any cooperate responsibilities that our children can also benefit from when we are no longer here. When the first company to mine here which is Lesotho Sand Stone, they only bought us a tent and some chairs to use during funerals instead of employing us

“We have been asking them to at least do something from which our children can benefit but they do not listen to us. This tent is already getting torn by the rats. If these rats finish it then there will not be anything to point at which we can say the mines have left for us.

“When we try to talk to our councilors and chiefs to represent us in talking with these companies to do something for us, they do not take us into consideration. We suspect that these companies pay bribe so that they cannot be taken to task by the chief and councilors,” Mphole lamented.

He added that the mining companies were only there to make money for themselves and leave them with open pits which will be impossible for the communities to rehabilitate.

He said another raging concern is that they are not even sure how recruitment is conducted as they are not consulted when engaging some workers. He said they have realised that people who are affected by the mines are not given preference when vacancies occur.

He also pointed out that these mines are creating pitfalls which are a threat to the animals that graze nearby. He also complained that some livestock fell into the pits and died.

Another villager Mahlomola Hlephole of Ha Lehlohonolo in the area said the nearby sand stone mine has not brought some power to their village. He said as the community members, they asked the owner of the mine when the mine was operating to help them pay for the M156,000 quotation from Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) when bringing the electricity poles closer to the village.

“I am not ashamed to say that the mine even finished mining in that place and left without doing any undertaking any cooperate responsibilities. When the owner of the mine left, he was not even able to pay the workers. He gave workers some of the equipment to sell so as to get the money that the company was owing them.

“We plead with the government to talk to the miners to assist us to pay the amount needed by LEC. We have already paid 60 percent of the money that LEC has quoted for us to get electricity,” he said.

Minister of mining, Serialong Qoo while addressing the concerns of the Lekokoaneng community said when companies want to mine minerals at a certain area there is a requirement to meet with the communities around that area. He urged that the mining companies are to consult with the affected communities to determine their needs as a measure to implement social responsibility efforts.

Qoo further said he has heard from the members of Senate “that they are going to work hard for the amendments of small holder mining law to be passed.” He said the small holder mining is not only meant for miners who mine diamonds but also for other kinds of resources.

“I have also spoken to the minister of trade to help all the small holder miners who will secure licenses with the market where they can sell all the minerals they possess. I also want to push to for enacting the law allowing for schools and government owned buildings to be constructed using the Lekoakoaneng sand stone. In that way we will be using our own available resources.,” Qoo warned.

 “Councilors should ensure that no one mines any minerals without your consent.. Those willing to mine resources should have obtained permits from the commissioner of mines. When such permits are issued, the commissioner of mines will thus ensure that the companies give back to the affected communities in order to improve their livelihoods.

 “I therefore plead with you communities to work with us like a team because we can be able to avoid the challenges of people who mine minerals without leaving anything for the community,” Qoo indicated.

On behalf of the mining companies, ‘Mampiti Mothabeng of Khalapa Lia Buseletsana Sandstone mining company, told the gathering that it is important for the community members to have a committee. She said the committee will work directly with the companies to make sure that the mines deliver on their commitments to the community.

Mothabeng said the committee will represent all the members of the community and make it easy for the mines to know what the people need. She said when there is no committee people come to the mines individually and that makes their job very difficult.

“I would also like to challenge women in Lekokoaneng to stand up and start their own businesses. Let us stop being lazy, nowadays women are allowed to do jobs that were regarded as fit for men only.

“We promise that after this meeting we will deliver what you asked from us. We do not want to tarnish the good relationship we have with the community.

Established in 2011, the company is a partnership between the Mothabeng family and a group of Lekokoaneng community members called Khalapa Lia Buseletsana.  It is one of the three major sandstone mining companies in the country.