Copper developer Orion Minerals has obtained an urgent interdict in the Northern Cape High Court, in Kimberley, to prevent any further disruption to its business at the Prieska copper/zinc mine involving violence and intimidation.
Orion on May 7 said actions at the miner’s operations have “mostly been focused on the demand that Orion appoint a specific contractor which failed to win a competitive bid for a construction management contract adjudicated by Orion in a fair and commercial manner”.
The protest action in the region has so far mostly been directed at local authorities by a minority of community members, in a “misguided attempt to force them to enforce specific local procurement and employment requirements on any business operating in the area”.
The protests in Prieska have been disruptive for residents, who have experienced intimidation from groups whose members include heavily armed individuals, Orion lamented.
In welcoming the court’s decision, Orion said it “respects the constitutional right to protest”, but “this does not extend to armed threats and the possibility of behaviour that will put lives, as well as livelihoods at risk”.
Orion CEO Errol Smart commented that “these protests are ill-conceived and self-defeating: they will not create more local jobs or opportunities, rather the protestors will discourage investment in the area and the wider province.
“The local and provincial economy simply cannot risk such investment being lost due to the actions of self-interested parties”.
The miner said it remains “absolutely committed” to its high environmental, social and governance standards, including an approved social and labour plan, local economic and skills development, as well as local employment in the Siyathemba (Prieska) area, and to develop Prieska as a “flourishing and important South African mining hub”.
“It is very disappointing that the current instability in the community is delaying a number of positive initiatives planned for roll-out in the area during May and beyond. We are hopeful that the Prieska Covid-19 Vaccination Centre will be rolled out as soon a conducive environment is restored,” Smart added.
The centre is funded by Orion and facilitated in conjunction with other Siyathemba businesses and the district's health department.
“Orion remains committed to constructively engage on all issues that require mutual cooperation with all our stakeholders. We implore all legitimate stakeholders to engage meaningfully and constructively,” Smart requested.