Thuggery at SA mines at odds with Government’s plans to attract mineral investment

THE Minerals Council South Africa called on the country’s authorities, including its police services, to help stamp out acts of “thuggery” perpetrated at mines, sometimes with a view to extracting supply contracts.

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.

“Very often, they are equipped with weapons. While some protests appear to stem from a lack of municipal service delivery, there is worrying evidence of a culture of corrupt ‘tenderpreneurs’ having been allowed to disrupt legitimate operations, and who are seeking to subvert legitimate procurement practices,” it said.

Earlier this week, Errol Smart, CEO of Orion Minerals, described protests by local community members near its Prieska Copper-Zinc Project in the Northern Cape province as “mafia-type behaviour” as they were seeking to pressure the company into awarding them contracts.

“The danger is that this kind of behaviour has become normal in South Africa,” Smart told BusinessLive. “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”.