A North West family is preparing a civil claim for hundreds of millions of rands against Impala Platinum because the mining giant has allegedly deprived them of their land for 36 years without compensation. According to a Beeld report, members of the Motsuenyane family live in poverty, together with other squatters, adjacent to the land they inherited. Their land, on the farm Wildebeestfontein, which belonged to the late Priscilla Motsuenyane, is occupied by mining activities, a large squatter camp and several businesses. Priscilla died in 1963. Lawyers for the Motsuenyane family are involved in an appeal to the Minister of Mineral Resources to set aside Impala’s mining rights on the land at the same time as preparing a separate damages claim. In the appeal documents, the Motsuenyanes argue that their constitutional and property rights have been severely violated. Since a legislative amendment in 2008, the Motsuenyanes have also been required to pay R30 000 a month in property tax the land. Their lawyers claim the apartheid government unlawfully gave prospecting rights and a mining licence to Impala in the 1960s and 70s. When old order rights were converted to new order rights in 2008, the family and the executor of Priscilla’s estate were not consulted, they said.

Implats denies any irregularities and claims the mineral rights on the land never belonged to the family, but to the state. Mine spokesperson Alice Lourens said the mine has surface permits for 105 of the 170 hectares currently belonging to the estate of Priscilla Motsuenyane. Squatters occupy the remaining part. It also denies that its acquisition of prospecting rights in 1968 from the former Bantu Trust and the subsequent mining rights received from the apartheid government were unlawful. And when the company converted its old order rights to new order rights, there was no legal obligation to consult with land owners or other interested parties. However, mining rights expert Peter Leon is reported as saying existing legislation does require consultation.