Johannesburg - The discovery of a large cache of shotgun cartridges marked "SAPS" at mining giant Lonmin earlier this year has raised questions as to why the company would be in possession of ammunition apparently meant to be used exclusively by the South African Police Service.News24 can reveal that in March this year, Lonmin chief executive officer Ben Magara was briefed by an employee from the company’s security and risk division following the discovery in February of some 1 000 rubber shotgun cartridges marked "12 Bore Baton SAPS" at two of the company's sites near Rustenburg.The briefing followed an internal investigation conducted by the company.Major-General Vuyisile Ngesi, a national police spokesperson, said in an email that Lonmin’s possession of SAPS-marked ammunition was "illegal" and that the matter would be investigated.READ: Phiyega can be grilled on evidence beyond Farlam Inquiry - judgeThe development could have far reaching implications for Lonmin, especially given earlier accusations that a "toxic collusion" between the company and police had contributed to the bloodshed at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in 2012.The accusation was made by advocate Dali Mpofu, who’d represented injured and arrested mineworkers, during the Farlam Commission of Inquiry into the massacre.'Shotgun shells acquired for training'Lonmin denies that any SAPS-marked rubber bullets were used by its own security personnel during the events at Marikana. However, the company disagrees with the police's stance that its possession of the ammunition was illegal.In response to News24 queries, Lonmin said: "We understand that the shotgun shells were acquired by our then-security team, only for the purposes of training and as a last resort protection mechanism.“However, these shotgun shells were never used in either of these circumstances or any other circumstances. Accordingly, we can confirm that this ammunition was not used in any of the events related to the Marikana shootings."Our understanding... is that original manufacturers produced cartridges in excess of what was required by SAPS and then proceeded to sell these on the open market. There is nothing illegal or untoward in Lonmin having acquired these shotgun shells.“However, given the history of Marikana, the current management team deemed this to be a potential reputational risk to the company and proceeded to hand this ammunition over to the SAPS," Lonmin added.READ: More crowd control lessons for rookie copsNews24 has established that Aug Behrens, a hardware and ammunition store outside Rustenburg, had supplied the SAPS-marked rounds to Lonmin. Aug Behrens in turn had sourced the ammunition from National Cartridge Company, a Cape Town-based ammunition supplier, from as early as 2011.National Cartridge Company’s directors have confirmed that another company they’re the directors of supplies rubber shotgun cartridges to the SAPS.Ernst Marais, a former Aug Behrens employee, confirmed that Lonmin had bought a large amount of cartridges bearing the "SAPS" markings before "the riots" at Lonmin had begun. Marais said he was not sure whether the unrest he referred to was the Marikana strikes of 2012.Though the use of rubber bullets by Lonmin’s own security personnel during the strike was put under the spotlight at the Marikana commission, there was never any indication that the private guards had used SAPS cartridges on the striking workers.'It was never our intention'Security experts say it is problematic and inappropriate for private individuals or security firms to be in possession of ammunition bearing a SAPS marking."It could cause confusion during an unrest and hinder any investigation following such an incident. It would make it difficult to determine whether or not it was the police themselves who had fired the rubber bullets," said Gareth Newham, from the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).Mike Howe and Charles Montgomery, National Cartridge Company’s directors, said in a joint statement that the Spanish manufacturers of the cartridges had supplied the National Cartridge Company with an "incorrect product" - the "over-run" batch of cartridges produced for the SAPS in 2011."It was never our intention to sell SAPS-marked cartridges to the trade, as resultant consequences would have resulted in a breakdown of trust," Montgomery and Howe said in their statement."In order to show our commitment to our client [the SAPS], and to the sorting [out] of this problem, we are prepared to recall and replace any cartridges supplied by National Cartridge [Company] found in civilian stores and will make every effort to withdraw these cartridges," Montgomery and Howe added.Ngesi said: "It is illegal for National Cartridge to sell rubber bullets that bear the marking of SAPS and the matter will be investigated. The investigation will results will dictate the steps that will be taken."