Franz Wild

A drilling programme at Modikwa platinum mine had been stalled after contractors were threatened by local opponents of the project, African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) said yesterday.

The managers of Modikwa, which is jointly owned by ARM, Anglo American Platinum and the community, did not consult farmers before adding a new drill rig that would affect their fields, community activist Mike Kgwete said on Friday.

ARM, which is controlled by billionaire Patrice Motsepe, said Modikwa had conducted “extensive consultation with community structures and landowners” before adding the rig at the mine in Limpopo.

“An agreement was reached for an in-fill drilling programme to commence at the Modikwa mine,” the company said. “Access and compensation terms were agreed with affected landowners.”

ARM has faced opposition to its development of Modikwa from some members of the community, who claim they do not benefit from their 8.5 percent stake in the mine.

While ARM founder Motsepe, 52, has become the richest black South African, most of the community in the rural area live in poverty.

“Things are not going well,” Abraham Monyela, another activist, said. “The relations between the mine and the community are not good.”

ARM said that during the establishment of the drill site the contractor had reported an approach and threats from a few people at the site.

“In the interest of safety, the Modikwa mine then instructed the contractor to remove the rig from site until there is further engagement and clarification on the matter,” the company said.

A group of people travelled by bus from Limpopo to protest outside ARM’s head office in Johannesburg on April 25, according to Kgwete.

The activists handed over a memorandum demanding that local businesses benefit more from mine contracts and that companies collectively owned by the community be dissolved because the protesters said their leaders had become unaccountable.

ARM said it was committed to ensuring that local populations benefited from Modikwa, which draws 70 percent of its 4 000 permanent employees from the region surrounding the mine.

“The area has approximately 80 000 people and an 80 percent unemployment rate, so there will continue to be challenges in ensuring the upliftment of our people living in these communities,” the company said.

ARM is planning to expand Modikwa, which produced 325 000 ounces of platinum group metals last year.

The drilling programme “is an ongoing and routine part of the operation and is to determine geology and reef continuity”, the company said.

Shares in ARM fell for an eighth consecutive day yesterday, declining 0.73 percent to close at R185.10 on the JSE. The platinum mining index gained 0.49 percent. – Bloomberg