JOHANNESBURG - DRDGOLD, the JSE-listed company, which focuses on mining tailings dams around Johannesburg, has taken exception to a report by the Benchmarks Foundation that dust emissions from its operations were responsible for respiratory diseases among Soweto residents.
Speaking during the presentation of the company’s financial results for the year-end to June in Johannesburg yesterday, DRDGold chief executive Niel Pretorius said he was disappointed and perplexed by the report released last week by the church-owned non-profit organisation that monitors corporate responsibilities.
“There is only one institution that is pumping money in rehabilitation tailings dams,” Pretorius said. “DRDGold has spent more money on rehabilitation in the last 10 years than on paying dividends," he added.
“”DRDGold has managed to significantly reduce dust emissions to the point where unless the wind was pumping at 50 knots from the south-east, there is hardly any dust coming through.” Pretorius said in the 1940s, the Chamber of Mines gave guidance on where housing developments should take place and they also announced a safe buffer zone from tailings dams.
These buffers had, however, been infringed on both by the current and previous governments, he said. DRDGold was one of the mines included in the “Waiting to inhale: A Household Survey of Four Soweto Communities Impacted by Mining” report on the communities of Riverlea, Diepkloof, Doornkop and Meadowlands.
Benchmarks Foundation said yesterday it preferred to engage with the corporations through communities about the issues to avoid a dependency situation from developing between the community and the NGO.
“DRD’s defence of unfenced and unsignposted mine dumps is wholly inadequate,” the foundation said. “The mine noted that every mine dump has ‘at some stage’ been fenced off and signposts clearly displayed.”
The company said it had paid shareholders a modest dividend of 5cents a share for the period after posting a hefty loss on the back of lower production and a flat gold price.
Headline earnings a share declined 99% to R0.8m compared to R53.8m for the 2016 financial year, while gold production slowed 4% to 4.26kg, reflecting a 5% drop in the average yield to 0.171 grams a ton, the company said.
Operating profit was 41% lower at R256.8m. “2016 was one of the best years in the last 10 years for operations and shareholders alike, the company made a lot of money, produced a lot of gold owing to the higher gold price,” the company said.
“That enabled us to pay an attractive dividend, the share price was also higher."
DRDGold operations have shifted to the central and east from the west of the Witwatersrand, necessitated by the depletion of resources in the west while the Crown plant, also in the west, was closed. The company said it expected to make R72m in annual savings following the closure.
It added that three new reclamation sites in the centre and to the east were also commissioned and preparation was started for the commissioning of a fourth by the third quarter of the 2018 financial year. DRDGold shares declined 3.68% on the JSE yesterday to close at R4.98.
- BUSINESS REPORT