15/11/2010 Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu during a media breakfast briefing held at Pretoria Gauteng. (169) Photo: Leon Nicholas

Johannesburg - Operations at gold mining company Mintails' Princess Pit in Kagiso, on the West Rand, were temporarily suspended on Friday, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu's office said.

The decision was taken following the department's preliminary investigation into operations at Mintails, spokeswoman Ayanda Shezi said in a statement.

“The holder of the right, West Wits Monarch, and Mintails, the operating company, were found to have breached sections of both the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and the Mine Health and Safety Act, and was thus in contravention of its right to mine.”

Infringements identified in the preliminary report included a lack of warning signs around the pit to prevent unauthorised access, and the proximity of a major power line to a high wall on the pit's eastern side.

Mintails also failed to implement its approved social and labour plan, Shezi said.

There were concerns about the environmental impact of opencast mining near residential areas, and public safety risks such as earth tremors caused by the mine's activities and rocks thrown up from the blast area.

“The outcomes of this preliminary investigation will be submitted to the independent technical team who will also be conducting an assessment...” Shezi said.

According to Tuesday's Business Report, Shabangu angered Kagiso residents by saying there were no legal grounds on which the mine's operations could be halted.

Mogale City local municipality spokesman Nkosana Zali said in a statement on Monday that some residents damaged property during protests after Shabangu visited the area. He said locals were divided on the issue.

“The most vociferous are those who want the mine to close down, while there is an equal number of protesters who want to extract economic benefits for themselves from the mining operation.

“The stalemate that exists is based on the insistence by a section of the protesting community members to have the mine shut down, whereas the minister indicated that there was no legislation she could rely on which enables her to willy-nilly shut this mine down.” - Sapa