Moving communities to make way for a new mine or the expansion of an existing one is by no means uncommon in Africa.
Rarely, however, has it been carried out on the scale seen at Kumba Iron Ore’s Sishen mine in the Northern Cape.
R3 billion has been invested in relocating the residents of Dingleton to a new purpose-built town, Siyathemba.
Dingleton was established in the 1950s to cater for employees of the newly established Sishen mine. Like the mine, it was simply known as Sishen, with the Dingleton name only being adopted in 1990.
“Well executed project in a well regulated environment.”
– Jonathan Veeran
By the 1970s, a second town known as Kathu had been established in the vicinity of the mine and soon overtook Dingleton as the main residential and commercial hub of the Sishen area.
Kumba, part of the Anglo American Group, first started to look in earnest at the possibility of relocating the Dingleton community in 2007 when a pre-feasibility study was launched.
It said at the time that a major motivation for the proposed relocation was that the town was within 500 m of the open-pit boundary, the minimum blasting distance required by legislation.
It noted that the situation was far from ideal, as mining operations inevitably affected the life of residents as they generated noise and dust and also, on occasion, caused damage such as cracked windows as a result of blasting.
A second major consideration was that moving the town would allow the pit to be extended into the buffer zone, providing access to more than 160 Mt of ore, thus extending the life of mine.
After completion of the PFS and a follow-on feasibility study, the relocation of Dingleton was approved in late 2013 with work on site kicking off the following year.
Today, eight years later the project is essentially complete with over 3 400 of Dingleton’s residents – representing approximately 500 households – now successfully relocated to Siyathemba, a suburb of Kathu, which is approximately 30 km from Dingleton.
Siyathemba is model town incorporating modern housing and a host of community facilities, including 17 recreational parks and a Youth Centre which were formally handed over to residents in April 2019 by Kumba’s CEO, Themba Mkhwanazi.
He said at the handover that the size and scale of the relocation was unprecedented in South Africa and noted that, in addition to building over 500 new houses, Kumba had also built new schools, constructed seven new churches, a police station, an office block and rental accommodation, municipal buildings and offices, libraries and community centres.
He added that the relocation was conducted according to the best-practice codes of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and had involved extensive consultations and negotiations with individual homeowners and a Resettlement Working Group (RWG) comprising elected community representatives and local ward councillors.