So. Africa: Tendele Coal Mining threatens to sue environmental activists for defamation over Facebook posts

Author: Daily Maverick, (South Africa), Published on: 6 May 2019

So. Africa: Mining company threatens to sue environmental activists for defamation over Facebook posts

‘Mining company threatens to ‘Slapp’ green activists over Facebook posts’ 25 April 2019

A Johannesburg coal mining company has threatened to drag an environmental watchdog group to the High Court and sue it for defamation and financial damages, sparking concern around an apparent increase in the use of corporate “Slapp” suits to intimidate critics of mining ventures. The term “Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation” (Slapp) suit was coined in the United States in the 1980s to describe legal bullying tactics by corporations and governments to silence civic activists by threatening them with hefty damages claims and protracted “lawfare”. Three South African environmental attorneys and several activists are currently facing damages claims of at least R3.75 million following allegations that they “defamed” an Australian mining company at the centre of controversy for its planned dune mining operations at Xolobeni on the Wild Coast, and at its existing Tormin mine on the West Coast.

Now the Tendele Coal Mining Company – a subsidiary of the Bryanston-based Petmin group – has sent a legal ultimatum to the Durban-based Global Environmental Trust (GET), giving it barely 24 hours to withdraw allegedly defamatory comments about the company’s mining operations on community-owned land on the boundary of the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve. The comments were posted on Facebook and GET’s “Save our Imfolozi Wilderness” website earlier this month after the trust launched a High Court application against Tendele, alleging that the company’s Somkhele anthracite coal mine near Imfolozi was operating illegally.

…In a separate case, Cape Town attorneys Cormac Cullinan, Christine Reddell and Tracey Davies and Johannesburg social worker John Clarke and other parties are also being sued for at least R3.75 million for allegedly making defamatory statements in 2017 about the Australian-based MRC mining company’s current or planned mining operations in South Africa. During a case involving a property developer and a nature conservancy in 1992, US Supreme Court judge Nicholas Colabella likened Slapp suits to a deliberate tactic to stretch out litigation and to foist crippling legal costs on activist groups, often on frivolous grounds.

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Related companies: Mineral Commodities (MRC) Petmin