Chief Court Reporter
South African billionaire Nicky Oppenheimer has been granted a temporary injunction barring a South African mining firm from conducting mineral exploration at the family private property in Shangani without first going through the environment impact assessment by the Environmental Management Agency.
The Oppenheimer family owns the 65 000ha Shangani cattle ranch in Matabeleland South. Through their firm, Shangani Holistic, the Oppenheirmer family approached the High Court after a South African company Pearline Mineral Exploration was spotted conducting an aerial survey of the potentially mineral-rich property.
Justice Paul Msithu granted the application by Shangani Holistic, which was being represented by Advocate Thabani Mpofu, finding that the company had a strong case to warrant the granting of the relief sought.
In his ruling Justice Msithu noted Pearline Mining Exploration unlawfully conducted an aerial survey for minerals at the Oppenheirmer private property without following proper procedure, hence the likelihood that the exploration firm would proceed to conduct the physical exploration without the requisite licence.
“The nature of the applicant’s (Shangani Holistic) operations is such that there is need for EMA to carry out an environmental impact assessment on the land before an exploration for minerals is done,” he said.
“The mineral exploration does not only have the potential to cause harm to the environment, but also to livestock and wildlife.
“That will significantly affect the applicant’s business interests.
“There is clearly a reasonable apprehension of harm if the project proceeds without due regard to the law.”
Justice Msithu did not accept submission by Pearline Mine Exploration lawyer Mr Herbert Mutasa that his client had merely carried out an aerial survey.
Mr Mutasa had said the environment impact assessment certificate would be sought at the appropriate stage when the physical mineral prospecting activities were to be started, but the judge would have none of it. The lawyer also sought to argue that there was nothing on the ground to suggest that the start of the physical prospecting was imminent.
The Oppenheirmer family had been in occupation of the land since 1937 and is involved in cattle ranching and wildlife conservation, and has a herd of about 8 000 cattle.
The family intends to increase that herd to about 19 000 in the next 10 years.
It exports beef mostly to the United Kingdom where there is a high demand for the 100 percent grass fed beef produced at the ranch.
About 400 workers drawn from the local community are employed at the ranch that also carries out safari hunting which boosts tourism in the country. The ranch is said to be potentially rich in gold, silver, copper, antimony, lead, cobalt, manganese, zinc, nickel,chrome, graphite, and lithium.
Under Zimbabwean law prospecting and eventually mining can take place on farm land, with a number of caveats, but present environmental law also insists on a range of safeguards right from the prospecting stage.