Vantage Goldfields' Lily mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga. File picture: Itumeleng English/Independent Media
JOHANNESBURG -  The  Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) allegedly unanimously approved the transfer of control of Lily and Barbrook mines in Mpumalanga to its new owners in December without following due process. 

Thabo Mokeona , the department’s director general, allegedly approved the transfer of ownership of Lily and Barbrook mine from Australian owned Vantage Goldfields to Flaming Silver trading in terms of Section 11 of the Mineral and Petroleum Development Act  (MPRDA) on December 21 last year.

Flaming Silver Trading, of which Siyakhula Sonke Empowerment Corporation (SSC) is the majority shareholder, took over Lily and Barbrooke Mine and received R190 million from the Industrial Development Corporation to restart the mine .

Vantage chief executive Mike McChensney said on Friday that the company had submitted the first application in August and again in September.

“Our application went to Mpumalanga in early August and it got lost and we then resubmitted another application in September at the head office in Pretoria,” McChensney said.

Business Report is in possession of a letter addressed to Vantage by the DMR detailing how the August application was not lodged in a prescribed manner, and not considered for adjudication, as all applications were no longer lodged manually and were lodged online through the South African Mineral Resources Administration System (Samrad).

The other September application was lodged while the office was closed, said the letter.

Lily Gold Mine in Barberton. PHOTO: Supplied/Vantage Goldfields website
“It should be noted that both applications were not lodged in the prescribed manner,” read the letter to Vantage.

Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe closed the Mpumalanga regional office in September after setting up an investigation into allegations of double granting of licences, the backlog in issuing of licences and the improper application of Section 54 stoppages.

Section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act of 1996 empowers government officials to halt mining operations over safety concerns. 

An official was suspended and the Samrad system in that province was also closed. All administration for Mpumalanga is now handled at head office in Pretoria.

The letter also indicates that neither the chief director for the Mpumalanga region Aubrey Tshivhandekanoi nor Mmadikeledi Malebe the director general for mineral regulation supported the application.

Malebe did not support the application citing that the families needed to be consulted and the failure to follow processes.

“This is a unique situation. The DMR should have confirmed with the three affected families to confirm indeed such adequate consultation was done. The application must comply with the requisites of the law,” she wrote in the letter. 

Operations at Lily ground to halt in February 2016 after an accident and Lily placed under business rescue, with about 1 000 workers losing their  jobs .  Pretty Nkambule, Yvonne Mnisi and Solomon Nyirenda died on February 5, 2016, when the container they were working in as a lamp-room was swallowed when ground caved n.

Ayanda Shezi, DMR spokesperson, said the Section 11 approval was above board.

“The department has satisfied itself that all the relevant prescripts in terms of the MPRDA were followed prior to the Section 11 application,” she said. 
She added the company had provided proof of consultation with the families of the three Lily mineworkers. 

“The Section 11 approval is key in ensuring the mine is able to get funding and can reopen, a major step forward since the tragic events of February 2016,” Shezi said.
Mokoena was appointed by ex Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane in 2017. There have been growing calls mounting for his resignation for his handling of the Mining Charter and section 54 stoppages.