Police deployed to monitor Richards Bay Minerals after machinery torched
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DURBAN - THE KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has deployed a strong law enforcement contingent to monitor the situation at Richards Bay Minerals (RBM).
This comes after heavy-duty machinery was set alight inside the mine on Friday – a day after the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, visited the mine.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said a case of malicious damage to property was being investigated by Kwambonambi SAPS.
Mbele said a group of community members arrived at the RBM premises at 11.30am on Friday and allegedly burnt four machines. The KZN Department of Transport, Community Safety and Liaison said no injuries or fatalities were reported.
The incident comes amid an ongoing chieftaincy issue involving the Kwambonambi community. The community wants the chieftaincy issue to be finalised following the installation of an administrator. In addition, it accused the administrator of not processing the land compensation issue for some members of the community.
Two weeks ago, one of RBM’s most senior managers, Nico Swart, was gunned down on his way to work.
KZN MEC for Community Safety, Neliswa Peggy Nkonyeni, condemned the incident and described Friday’s incident as an act of violence.
Nkonyeni urged police to maintain high visibility in and around the RBM vicinity to ensure law and order.
She said the situation at the mine was stable and more police had been deployed to safeguard the mine.
Those behind the vandalism and destruction of property must face the full might of the law, she said. “The provincial government will not allow a situation whereby a multinational company that employs thousands of people is turned into a crime scene. Those who are disgruntled must table their concerns through appropriate channels without resorting to violence.”
During his visit to the mine, Mantashe called on the community to safeguard and protect RBM. Mantashe was accompanied by KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala, who chaired the meeting, Nkonyeni, the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Ravi Pillay, uMhlathuze Municipality mayor Mduduzi Mhlongo, and Rio Tinto managing director Stephane Leblanc.
Nkonyeni said such violent incidents had a negative impact on the economy of Richards Bay and the province as a whole.
“The provincial government will continue engaging with all stakeholders for a lasting solution. All concerned parties need to play their part in working towards ensuring peace and stability in Richards Bay, to ensure business continuity at RBM,” Nkonyeni said.
RBM is a subsidiary of the multinational Rio Tinto. Rio Tinto’s annual economic contribution is over R6.2 billion per annum. RBM managing director Werner Duvenhage said: “The safety of our workforce continues to be our top priority.”
The mine said it was still assessing the extent of the damage to quantify the losses the company had incurred.