Surface works under way at the Mogale Tailings Retreatment project west of Johannesburg.
Photo by: Creamer Media Chief Photographer Donna Slater
JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Gold mining company Pan African on Wednesday gave stern notice that it will not tolerate the actions of a few parties with selfish interests that want to derail the R2.5-billion Mogale Tailings Retreatment project, west of Johannesburg in the Kagiso/Krugersdorp area.
Pan African possesses all the requisite permits to conduct gold recovery activities and for certain community members to state that the internationally listed Pan African is working with illegal Zama Zama miners is beyond belief, given that its activities in the area will, in fact, do the exact opposite – namely, lead to the closure of old workings accessed by Zama Zamas.
Very positively, the creation of jobs and community development programmes will provide local youth with legitimate and sustainable opportunities, including skills development, learnerships and bursary opportunities.
Pan African has begun hiring members of the local communities and to date has 111 employees on site, of which 70 (63%) have been employed from the local communities.
Only where it is unable to procure skills locally does it seek employees from outside of the host communities.
At 12 community consultations held from May 26 to June 10, documents were made available that outlined the employment application process.
An image was provided showing job advertisements placed in local community recreation parks, tuckshops and municipal offices.
The adverts resulted in the receipt of 948 curriculum vitaes from local community members, which will be made available to the main contractor for consideration, with more to follow as the project progresses.
Where skills are not available locally, these are procured from other parts of the province.
Pan African cannot compromise on safety and will develop local suppliers and skills. However, this is a long-term process and will be incorporated over the development of the project.
Protesting and disrupting activities to demand jobs and contracts up front and without following due process will not be entertained.
All contracts and employment opportunities will be transparent and awarded on the basis of merit, Pan African stated in a release to Mining Weekly.
The company has acquired the surface area and immovable assets where its operations are situated and is reserving its rights to take the necessary legal action against any parties that hinder, obstruct or prevent access to its properties or assets.
In September 2022, after lengthy negotiations, the London Aim and main board Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed Pan African finalised the acquisition of the Mintails project from the liquidator of Mintails Mining SA.
This followed a long period where the project area had been abandoned, and the plant and equipment from previous operators vandalised and stolen, resulting in significant crime, job losses and damage to the economy and environment. Communities were left in distress with pollution at unprecedented levels.
As reported by Engineering News & Mining Weekly, Pan African’s project execution process has subsequently kicked off, initially focusing on the detailed engineering design, environmental approvals and Integrated Water Use Licence (IWUL) application with considerable expenditure incurred to date. This will result in a significant and meaningful boost to all stakeholders and benefits in the long term for the area.
Extensive community consultations during various stages of the project were undertaken as prescribed by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy as part of the permitting process. Pan African received immense support from representatives of the affected communities and interested and affected parties that participated and who it feels are the legitimate stakeholders.
COMMUNITY PROTESTS AND INTERDICTS
To commemorate the start of the Mogale Tailings Retreatment project construction, Pan African held a sod-turning ceremony on July 25 at which certain ‘members of the local community’ were mobilised to disrupt the event, by protesting and burning tyres and with allegations that they:
- were not consulted with regards to the mining of the minerals in the area on ‘their land’;
- were not offered employment opportunities and locals are not being employed; and
- local businesses were not consulted and their services not utilised.
Pan African’s security personnel and local police managed the situation and noted these concerns.
It was also noted that the very same ward councillors and certain community members that were present during pre-construction community engagements were at the forefront of the protests and engaged with media claiming they were not consulted.
It was further noted that the community members and councillors were being mobilised by individuals in the background, who arrived with high-end vehicles with personalised number plates, which are believed to be the equivalent of a ‘construction mafia’.
These individuals and disrupters were identified and court interdicts issued against them by Pan African, which states in a media release that it will take all necessary steps required to protect its employees, contractors and assets.
“We will develop projects and mine in a sustainable manner that benefits businesses and communities in the longer term and will not tolerate underhand tactics or misinformation,” the company stated in the release.
Pan African, which has successfully built tailings retreatment projects at its Barberton and Evander operations, employs hundreds of local community members, developing their skills and supporting host communities in the process, by building schools, clinics and sustainable job creation projects.
Prior to mining at the Mintails sand dumps and slimes dams, there will be a construction period of 12 to 18 months, where there will be no cash flow as the capital expenditure of R2.5-billion is incurred.
EMPLOYMENT AND SME OPPORTUNITIES
Employment in the project will ramp up as the project progresses with execution. Tables provided illustrate estimated monthly employment during the execution phase of the project.
“Employees and SMEs cannot be hired upfront as in many cases skills have to be developed as the project progresses, and local small businesses that provide the required services do not exist currently,” the company stated.
ENVIRONMENTAL AND IWUL CONSULTATIONS
Six scoping-phase engagements and 18 environmental impact assessment-phase engagements were undertaken with local communities as part of the environmental and IWUL consultation process with the local communities during the various phases of the environmental authorisation process.
Minutes of the meetings and attendance registers are available. For communities to therefore make statements to the media indicating that they were not consulted is blatantly incorrect. Moreover, the project has a dedicated community and stakeholder engagement team that is available for engagement at all times.
SOCIAL AND LABOUR PLAN CONSULTATIONS
Common projects raised during 16 social and labour plan engagements with communities and ward councillors were supplier and enterprise development, skills development, bursaries and infrastructure projects, drawing on positive benefits to community and supplier development in host communities at its other operations.
Pan African Resources and its subsidiaries own:
- mining right MR206GP, which includes all the tailings storage facilities (TSFs);
- TSFs as movable assets; and
- surface rights where current operations are taking place
The project is of significant benefit to the South African economy and the Mogale City local municipality area and a clear plan for local community employment as well as how local small and medium-sized enterprises can benefit from this project in time – but the project requires a development period to fulfil these objectives.
Pan African has developed many similar projects over the past years and has a track record in constructing and operating sustainable operations that benefit all stakeholders, including the national economy, employees and local communities.
The area has been subject to significant environmental scarring and is rife with illegal mining, both which need to be eradicated urgently and for which the company has the bulk of the community support, which is why the disruptive actions of a few parties will not be tolerated and why the company is reserving its rights when it comes to the development of projects for the benefit of the people of South Africa.