Environmental duties

Debshan (Pvt) Ltd. v Provincial Mining Director, Mat. South Province & Others (HB 11-17 , HC 538-16) [2017] ZWBHC 11 (26 January 2017);

1

 

                                                                                                                                                                HB 11-17

                                                                                                                                                              HC 538-16

 

DEBSHAN (PRIVATE) LIMITED

versus

THE PROVINCIAL MINING DIRECTOR,

MATABELELAND SOUTH PROVINCE

and

THE PROVINCIAL MINING DIRECTOR,

MATABELELAND NORTH PROVINCE

In this High Court case, the applicant owned a ranch where it was engaged in cattle ranching and wildlife safari operations. Many people desired to conduct mining activities on the ranch-land. The applicant sought a declaratory order against the mining authorities that any mining rights issued targeting the ranch, without conducting an environmental impact assessment, would be void. The first and second respondents opposed the application on the basis that an environmental impact assessment certificate was not a prerequisite for the issuance of a mining certificate but only for the commencement of mining operations. 

In court, the first issue for determination was whether the applicant had the legal capacity to challenge the issuing of the licenses; the second whether the permits were properly issued to the holders.

The court held that for the applicant to obtain the declaratory order sought it needed to establish that it had a direct and substantial interest in the subject matter. Since the licenses affected the applicant rights over the ranch, he had the legal capacity to seek the orders. On whether the first and the second respondents were discharging their duties lawfully in issuing the mining licenses, the court held that s3 and s97 of the Environmental Management Act of 2002 prohibit the issuing of mineral rights without conducting an environmental impact assessment. Since the environmental impact assessment report was not issued, the applicant was accordingly entitled to the declaratory order sought.

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