Mining firm’s troubles double

2010-10-17 13:41

A company at the centre of a dispute over non-payment of mining royalties and serious violations of environmental regulations has been implicated in a similar row involving a rural Northern Cape community.
Last week City Press reported that New African Mining (NAM), a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, was facing a R30?million suit in damages relating to the company’s failure to rehabilitate land damaged during its mining activities in Schmidtsdrift, near Kimberley in the Northern Cape.
The Batlhaping and Griqua clans of Schmidtsdrift are claiming R5.6?million in unpaid ­salaries for 180 workers retrenched by the company last year and R8?million in unpaid royalties.

City Press has now learnt that the Majemanchu Communal Property Association (MCPA) which represents 43 families in Majemanchu, near Barkly West is involved in a similar dispute with a company with links to NAM directors.

The MCPA has applied to the mineral resources department to cancel the mining rights of Loxton Exploration (Pty) Ltd, a company allegedly linked to NAM directors Fernando Carocou and Deon Kotze.

They accuse the company of serious contraventions of environmental regulations and sections of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act.

This comes after the company closed down operations at the Smithsmine in March this year, leaving the mine without electricity required to pump out water from the shafts.

This is believed to have led to flooding in the mine, raising fears that it could lead to contamination of drinking water which might impact negatively on the health of the residents and livestock.

As a result, MCPA’s lawyers have asked the mineral resources department to immediately cancel Loxton Exploration’s mining licence.

National Union of Mineworkers representative Ernest Sobe said they were also engaged in efforts to get Loxton Exploration to pay a total of R1.5?million in retrenchment packages to 180 workers laid off without compensation in March.

Sobe said the workers were verbally told in a meeting addressed by Kotze that they were being laid off for two months and should wait for word from the company.

Sobe said the workers had yet to receive a response from NAM and Loxton Exploration after writing to notify them of their demands which included payment of five months’ wages by January next year.

Schmidtsdrift community leaders said they had been trying without success to get hold of NAM directors.

City Press’s attempts to trace both Carocou and Kotze drew a blank.

Sobe said the company paid only 25% of salaries for the months of July, August and September.

The MCPA claims that Carocou, who is director of NAM, also represents Loxton Exploration (Pty) Ltd which is registered in Singapore.
However, City Press could not establish if Carocou and Kotze were also directors of Loxton Exploration.

But Edward Nyanyiwa, secretary of the MCPA, said Kotze and Carocou had publicly represented both companies at meetings with the community.

He said NAM also conducted contract work for Loxton Exploration on Smithsmine.

“We have occasionally invited Loxton Exploration to the table, inquiring on some issues such as their BEE structure, affected community benefit, as well as their social programme plan structure.

“Mr Fernando Carocou has always played two balls at the same time, representing NAM and Loxton Exploration whenever there was a meeting invitation. They have always lied to us when it comes to negotiations regarding community engagement,” said Nyanyiwa.
MCPA chairperson Solomon Mocumi said Loxton Exploration had failed to honour its monthly royalties payments of about R10?000 since November last year.

“They try to cheat us by constantly using different names,” said Mocumi.

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