JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – South African precious metals miner Pan African Resources has strongly condemned the protest action by some community members at the company’s Elikhulu tailings retreatment plant project, within the Evander gold mine complex, in Mpumalanga, warning that the unrest threatens to disrupt construction activities at the project.
CEO Cobus Loots noted in a statement issued on Tuesday evening that there were many committed and hardworking individuals and institutions within government and the community who were working to ensure the Elikhulu project benefitted all stakeholders.
“The actions of this grouping, which undermines the ethical and transparent process followed thus far, demonstrates self-interest at the expense of the community at large and other stakeholders in the project,” he stated.
Loots said Pan African condemned this behaviour and appealed to all stakeholders, including the police and local and national government, to assist in ensuring that the rule of law is responsibly enforced and to ensure an environment that is conducive to large investments of this nature in the mining industry, is maintained.
He pointed out that the R1.7-billion Elikhulu project, which would produce gold from historic mine tailings, represented a major investment in the province. The project will create about 700 jobs during the construction phase and about 250 direct permanent jobs once the plant is in operation.
To date, the project has created business opportunities for about 40 local and community businesses, with this number set to rise in the near future.
On October 20, Pan African and Evander Gold Mining obtained a court interdict against the grouping, which, besides others, prohibits this grouping from interfering in construction activities on site and from intimidating and threatening Evander employees and contractors.
Pan African said that despite the court interdict, this grouping had continued with illegal activities, including blockading private roads and threats of violence and intimidation against Evander employees and contractors. The company emphasised that these actions were “endangering human lives” and property and could result in the Elikhulu project being “adversely impacted”.
The company alleged that this grouping had insisted on being awarded contracts without the requisite scrutiny and without following the project’s procurement processes as agreed to by all the stakeholders.
Further, Pan African said that the grouping had vowed to achieve its objectives through violent means, if necessary.
“[We have] strong corporate governance structures in place and the necessary processes and procedures to ensure [the Elikhulu project] employment and procurement functions are compliant with the accepted norms of its regulators and is equitable to all its stakeholders.
“In this regard, Pan African affirms its commitment to continue using qualifying local suppliers and to employing members from local communities, as already agreed with the multi-stakeholder forum representing the Evander region,” stated Loots.
BROAD-BASED SUPPORT FOR PROJECT WELL ESTABLISHED
Mining Weekly Online has previously reported that government, trade unions and traditional leadership had publicly declared their support for the project. During the project’s sodturning ceremony, in September, Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) director-general Advocate Thabo Mokoena said Pan African’s fortitude to persevere with the project and bring it to realisation despite these challenges was “highly praiseworthy” and stood as an example to the rest of the industry of what could be achieved.
Mpumalanga Finance, Economic Development and Tourism MEC Eric Kholwane had echoed the DMR’s sentiments, noting that mining was a critically important element of the Mpumalanga economy and that the province was committed to working with Pan African to ensure the success of the project.
On the sidelines of the sodturning event, Mining Weekly spoke with several traditional leaders and their representatives from the region, who all agreed that Elikhulu was a positive development for the area and one that they hoped would be replicated by other miners in the region. The traditional leaders believed the project would assist in addressing the challenge of unemployment in the region, particularly among the youth.
National Union of Mineworkers deputy president Joseph Montisetsi was also upbeat about the project, stating that the development of new projects was important for mineworkers’ morale, particularly in light of ongoing retrenchments that had occurred recently or that were slated to take place in the coming months in the South African mining sector.