South Africa

Orion gets urgent interdict to prevent disruption by ‘Mafia’

JOHANNESBURG - JSE-listed Orion Minerals has obtained an urgent interdict from the Northern Cape High Court in Kimberley to prevent disruption at its Prieska copper-zinc mine following several violent protests, the company said on Friday.

Orion approached the court after gun-wielding protesters demanded that the company 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.

Chief executive Errol Smart said on Friday that the company respected the constitutional right to protest but this did not extend to armed threats and the possibility of behaviour that would put lives as well as livelihoods at risk.

“These protests are ill-conceived and self-defeating: they will not create more local jobs or opportunities, rather the protesters 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,” Smart said.

Orion said the protests had been mostly targeted at municipal 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.

During the protests, community members blockaded roads and were accompanied by armed men who carried assault rifles.

DA member of Parliament James Lorimer said this week that the town of

Prieska was facing armed intimidation and violence from a group demanding a share in the mine and control over contracts.

“The Orion mine is facing a similar situation to construction companies elsewhere in the country which have been targeted by what’s been called the ‘construction Mafia’,” said Lorimer.

The Minerals Council South Africa on Friday condemned the violence and thuggery, saying they were at odds with the attempts by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and the industry to attract exploration and development investment into the country and the region.

“This must stop if there is to be any hope of attracting new and lasting investment into the country. The Mineral Council expresses its support for and solidarity with members such as Orion Minerals, who have taken a firm public stance against corruption and illegitimate demands from failed suppliers at its Prieska copper-zinc mine,” said the council.

Orion said the community instability was delaying progress in the rollout of initiatives planned for this month.

Orion also said that its training and development programme, commencing with the interviews and occupational assessments of up to 350 local job applicants who had submitted CVs could only be conducted in a safe and calmer environment.

The protests came as Orion released the results of scoping study into its Okiep Copper Project in the Northern Cape which supported the economic merit of developing a foundation phase mining operation.

Orion Minerals shares ended Friday at 43c, 4.44 percent lower on the JSE.

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