Mineral Sands Resources lawsuits (re Tormin mine, So. Africa)

In May 2017 Mineral Sands Resources (MSR), a subsidiary of Australian mining company Mineral Commodities Limited (MRC), filed a lawsuit against two attorneys from the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) and a community activist. MSR are suing the attorneys and activist for alleged defamation of the subsidiary occurring during a presentation at the University of Cape Town in January regarding MSR’s “environmentally destructive” Tormin mineral sands mine. MSR have requested R500 000 of damages from the attorneys and R750 000 from the activist.

According to MSR, the defendants have “overstepped the boundaries of responsibility, truth and fairness”. MSR claims they have a right to defend the company, their shareholders, and workers from defamatory statements.

In response, CER deny accusations and refer to their right to freedom of expression, their right to academic expression, and Section 24 of the South African Constitution that safeguards the protection of the environment. CER have raised several concerns over the actions of MSR in relation to their mining operation. They therefore claim that the proceeding is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) aimed at intimidating, censoring and disabling CER from speaking out against their operations by burdening them with legal costs.

CER argue recent intervention from the University of Cape Town and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies demonstrates the level of threat to constitutional environmental rights caused by SLAPPs.

The case in on-going. 

So. Africa: MRC subsidiary sues two NGO attorneys and a community activist for alleged defamation: NGO says will resist attempts by the company to intimidate them, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, 6 May 2017
Environmental rights group claims it's being censored, IOL, 8 May 2017
Australian company sues SA environmental lawyers for defamation, News 24, 8 may 2017  

Centre for Environmental Rights: 
CER to resist attempts by Australian mining company to intimidate attorneys and activists, 5 May 2017
CER attorneys raise Constitutional defence in SLAPP suit, and experts join as friends of the court, 20 Nov 2017  

Centre for Applied Legal Studies:
Mining company threatens environmental activists, 2 Nov 2017

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Article
20 November 2017

CER attorneys raise Constitutional defence in SLAPP suit, and experts join as friends of the court

Author: Centre for Environmental Rights

The defendants in the defamation suit brought by a subsidiary of Australian mining company Mineral Commodities Limited (MRC), including two CER attorneys, have raised Constitutional arguments in response to the defamation claims.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at the University of the Witwatersrand have intervened in the matter as amicus curiae. UCT and CALS will address the court on issues of academic freedom, and CALS will provide further expertise on the nature and effect of ”Strategic Litigation against Public Participation”...

...[T]wo Centre for Environmental Rights’ (CER) attorneys and a local community activist from Lutzville have been sued for defamation by MRC subsidiary Mineral Sands Resources (MSR) 

...The CER maintains that litigation of this nature is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the management and costs of a legal defence until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

...The intervention by UCT and CALS illustrates the significance of the threats to the Constitutional rights of environmental activists, threats which are becoming more and more common. 

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Article
2 November 2017

Mining company threatens environmental activists

Author: Lee-Anne Bruce, Centre for Applied Legal Studies

On 24 October 2017, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) applied to the Western Cape High Court to intervene as amicus curiae or ‘friend of the court’ in a matter brought by Mineral Sands Resources against two environmental lawyers and a community activist.

Mineral Sands Resources alleges that Christine Reddell and Tracey Davies from the Centre for Environmental Rights and activist Davine Cloete made ‘defamatory’ statements during a lecture at the Unversity of Cape Town’s Summer School Programme in January 2017. 

...CALS has applied to intervene in the matter to assist the Court with this important issue. We argue that this kind of litigation can have a devastating effect on activists who are simply defending their rights or the rights of their clients and communities. We further argue that this particular case is an issue of academic freedom and that being able to critique cases and bring real world examples into a classroom is essential to academia in general and teaching environmental law in particular.

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Article
8 May 2017

Australian company sues SA environmental lawyers for defamation

Author: Barbara Maregele, Ground Up (South Africa)

Australian-owned mining company Mineral Commodities Ltd (MRC) is suing a West Coast community activist and two Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) attorneys for defamation. The company is claiming over R1 million in damages.

Advocacy group Right2Know has vowed to protest at the Department of Mineral Resources and at the Australian embassy against what it calls “dodgy business dealings” by MRC.

MRC has been marred by controversy for its attempts to mine mineral sand at Xolobeni on the Wild Coast and its ongoing court battle over its Tormin mine on the West Coast near Lutzville.

...Davies, Reddell and Cloete were doing a presentation about MSR’s “destructive” sand mining at its Tormin sand mineral mine on the West Coast. The CER has said that the summons was a way to intimidate activists and discourage others from speaking out against the mining giant.

...“It is clear that Qunya and MRC are now employing scare tactics against the lawyers who are providing legal assistance to the anti-mining activists...."

...CER will be opposing the summons. MRC spokesperson Anne Dunn said the company will not be responding to questions on the matter.

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Article
8 May 2017

Environmental rights group claims it's being censored

Author: Siyavuya Mzantsi, IOL (South Africa)

The Centre for Environmental Rights says an Australian company involved in mining in environmentally-sensitive areas, which it opposes, is suing two of their attorneys for defamation.

...The centre says a subsidiary, Mineral Sands Resources (MSR), is now claiming R500 000 in damages.

Gibbs said the summons served on Tracey Davies and Christine Reddell, along with a local community activist from the West Coast, Davine Cloete, claimed they had made defamatory statements about MSR and its director Zamile Qunya during presentations at UCT’s Summer School in January.

...“Strategic lawsuits against public participation, popularly known as 'Slapp' suits, are intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defence until they abandon their criticism or opposition."

...But yesterday Caruso alleged the CER and certain individuals made defamatory and unsubstantiated remarks aimed directly at diminishing the company's core values of ensuring responsible environmental impact and high social and economic value for local communities.

...“The company enjoys the same right to defend itself and owes a duty to its stakeholders and employees not to permit these remarks to simply go unanswered.” 

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Item
6 May 2017

So. Africa: MRC subsidiary sues two NGO attorneys and a community activist for alleged defamation: NGO says will resist attempts by the company to intimidate them

Author: Centre for Environmental Rights (South Africa)

"CER to resist attempts by Australian mining company to intimidate attorneys and activists", 5 May 2017

A subsidiary of Australian mining company Mineral Commodities Limited (MRC), known for its controversial attempts to mine mineral sands at Xolobeni on the Wild Coast, has sued two Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) attorneys for defamation, claiming R500 000 in damages...The summons alleges that CER attorneys Tracey Davies and Christine Reddell, along with a local community activist from the West Coast, Davine Cloete, made defamatory statements about MRC’s subsidiary company, Mineral Sands Resources (MSR) and its director, Zamile Qunya...MSR has claimed R250 000 in damages from each of our attorneys, and a further R750 000 from Cloete...As a civil society organisation that works to help communities and civil society organisations in South Africa realise our Constitutional right to a healthy environment, by advocating and litigating for environmental justice, such threats cannot be tolerated...This is not the first time that MRC has sued activists who have criticised the company. Last year, MRC and its CEO Mark Caruso sued Cape Town attorney Cormac Cullinan, Amadiba Crisis Committee activist Mzamo Dlamini, and John Clarke, a social worker, all for defamation in relation to the company’s involvement at Xolobeni. These claims are also being defended...

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Article
5 May 2017

CER to resist attempts by Australian mining company to intimidate attorneys and activists

Author: Centre for Environmental Rights

A subsidiary of Australian mining company Mineral Commodities Limited (MRC)... has sued two Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) attorneys for defamation, claiming R500 000 in damages.

The summons alleges that CER attorneys Tracey Davies and Christine Reddell, along with a local community activist from the West Coast, Davine Cloete, made defamatory statements about MRC’s subsidiary company, Mineral Sands Resources (MSR)... during presentations at the University of Cape Town...

...The claims will be strenuously defended. ...This is not the first time that MRC has sued activists who have criticised the company.

...At Tormin, local communities and environmental activists have raised numerous concerns about the legality of MSR’s mineral sands mining operation. In September 2016, environmental authorities obtained and executed a search warrant at Tormin. In response, MSR sued the Magistrate who issued the warrant and the environmental authorities involved in the search and seizure operation.

...While the Western Cape High Court in its judgement in March 2017 set aside the search warrant on the basis that the environmental authorities had overstepped their jurisdiction, the court confirmed that MSR had expanded its operations without the required environmental authorisation. 

 

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