Orion secures urgent interdict as picture grows of violent Northern Cape tender protests

ORION Minerals said it had secured an urgent interdict in the Northern Cape High Court in Kimberley in an effort to stem further disruption at its Prieska Copper-Zinc project involving certain people in the community.

The company added that protests were being directed “at any business” where frustration at losing out on a tender award had been experienced.

Errol Smart, CEO of Orion Minerals, described the protests earlier this week as “mafia-type” behaviour. Tyre burning and street blockades were being used to force the company to grant tenders to local businesses.

He elaborted on Friday that the protests developed after a contractor failed to win “… a competitive bid for a construction management contract adjudicated by Orion in a fair and commercial manner”.

The protests in Prieska were disruptive for residents who had experienced “… widespread intimidation from groups whose members include heavily armed individuals,” said Orion in an update.

But the protests were not just directed at Orion: mostly pointed at local authorities, it was “… a misguided attempt to force them to enforce specific local procurement and employment requirements on any business operating in the area”.

“These protests are ill-conceived and self-defeating,” said Smart. “They will not create more local jobs or opportunities, rather the protestors will discourage investment in the area and the wider province.

“The local and provincial economy simply cannot risk such investment being lost due to the actions of self-interested parties,” he said.

Earlier on Friday, the Minerals Council South Africa called on the country’s authorities, including its police services, to help stamp out acts of “thuggery” perpetrated at the mines.

The council said recent events included the death of a motorist caught up in protests in Mpumalanga province in February and “… the violent and damaging protests around Prieska in the Northern Cape last week.

“In almost all cases the protests are led by a small group of individuals who are able to organise and intimidate with impunity,” said the Minerals Council.

“The danger is that this kind of behaviour has become normal in South Africa,” Smart told BusinessLive on Wednesday. “What is scary for me is that when something like this happens CEOs phone each other for consolation and to share their experiences. This is how commonplace it has become,” he said.

“People who are in positions of responsibility need to take responsibility now. It needs to stop,” Smart said. “This is just a teething problem, and we’ll get through it like all our peers have.”

The council said unchecked community violence was “… at odds with the attempts by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and the industry to attract exploration and development investment into the country and the region”.