Coal exploration and mining company Canyon Coal, a subsidiary of investment company Menar, officially handed over the R1.5-million worth of facilities to the special needs centre Bonginhlanhla Stimulation Centre, in Middelburg on 22 April 2021.

The purchase and transfer of the property was as part of an extension of Canyon’s original social and labour plan (SLP) initiative for Canyon Coal’s Hakhano Colliery, in Middelburg, Mpumalanga.

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The facility has been operational since January 2020, but the official handover event has been delayed owing to the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Speaking at the handover Steve Tshwete Local Municipality Assistant Director for Local Economic Development (LED), Michael Nkosi, expressed appreciation for Canyon Coal’s contribution to economic development.

He said government’s budgets were overstretched for competing needs.

“We are happy that companies like Canyon are contributing to the development of our communities,” he said.

“For the first time, our centre will have a facility that we own, as previously we rented premises. To own a property is very important for the centre as it allows us to be able to plan for the future, without having to worry about whether we will have to move every few years.

It is also unsettling for our vulnerable learners, who struggle to adapt to new environments and places, to keep moving premises,” said Bonginhlanhla Stimulation Centre Chairperson Ellie Magagula.

Menar Chairperson Mpumelelo Mkhabela stated that education was the equaliser in society, which was why Canyon Coal selected a project of this nature to support. He said there was a need for stability in mining communities to enable mining companies to continue to operate, create jobs and contribute substantively to social upliftment.

“We are among those companies who don’t need to be told to do the right thing because we are a responsible corporate citizen.

“The life of mine of Hakhano Colliery has come to an end, but the legacy of the investment we have made in Bonginhlanhla will have a positive impact for many years to come,” Mkhabela said.

Menar Coal Social Labour Plan (SLP) Manager Nthabiseng Ocia Mueti explained that the local economic development (LED) project was identified in conjunction with the Steve Tshwete Local Municipality and the Department of Mineral Resources.

“It goes to show what we can achieve when we collaborate with stakeholders,” Mueti said.

Department of Mineral Resources Deputy Director for SLPs, Sibongile Radebe, praised Canyon Coal for not just complying with its long fulfilled SLP requirements but for going far above and beyond the minimum requirement for an SLP commitment.

“Canyon Coal has provided support for the most vulnerable in our society and is leaving a lasting positive legacy, which should serve as an example to other mining companies about what can be achieved,” Radebe highlighted.

The new facility has classrooms, a kitchen, offices, toilets, indoor and outdoor play areas, which have been upgraded by the centre to make them suitable for the special needs of the learners.

The new premise is larger than the ones, which the centre used previously, enabling for smaller classes, additional care and therapeutics to learners, which was not possible in the past.

The centre accommodates around 50 learners, who live in and around the Middelburg region, with most of them coming from disadvantaged families.

The learners who attend the centre range from 3 – 18 years old, with a new section having been established for older learners aged from 18 – 35 years.

Sanja Venter, senior education specialist for learners with profound disabilities at the Department of Basic Education, said she was pleased that the centre catered to the unique needs of learners, in all respects, in order for them to receive the specialised teaching and learning that they require.

“Many facilities in our communities are unfortunately not equipped to provide the right environment for children with profound special needs. So, we deeply appreciate Canyon Coal’s efforts,” she said.

The handover of the new premises was held in strict accordance with COVID-19 Alert level 1 regulations which included wearing of face masks, maintaining physical distances of 1.5 metres and observing social gathering number limitations.