Mr Ernest Mammba (in front ,second from right) pictured during the launch of his company’s mine, the “biggest” in the country, on 22 September.
Vhembe residents can apparently look forward to another major development promising thousands of job opportunities in the mining sector. The only problem is that, apart from the owner of the mine, a couple of Nigerian business officials, a few traditional leaders and guests, almost nobody knows anything about the proposed development.
On 22 September, the Mammba Metal Group (MMG) held a launch at the Mukumbani sports grounds, announcing the establishment of the “biggest” mine in South Africa, according to company CEO Mr Ernest Mammba.
Two Zoutnet reporters attended the launch. They have quoted Mammba as saying that “there is no mine that is bigger than this one in our country”, referring to a more than 13 000-hectare mining venture envisaged for the region, some 30km west of Thohoyandou. Mammba apparently went on to state that the mine would become operational within two months. Also attending the launch was a Mr Goodman Ngidi, who identified himself as a De Beers engineer. Ngidi is quoted as saying that the De Beers company was happy to fund the MMG. “We will be working with the mine and good opportunities will be found in this industry. Many job opportunities will be created…” Ngidi is quoted as saying.
The Zoutnet group of newspapers decided not to publish the article about the launch, despite some news agencies’ running with the story. Something was deemed to be amiss.
Among the questions asked following the launch was why nobody knew anything about the “biggest” mine in the country said to become “operational within two months”? No record could be found of any mining right or license granted to the MMG, nor any record of a public participation process regarding the completion of an environmental impact assessment (EIA). Question marks were also placed over De Beers’ involvement with the mine.
The Zoutpansberger contacted the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) to find out whether they were aware of the proposed mine and whether the MMG had been issued a mining license. In reply, the DMR said that they had only issued the MMG a prospecting right on 1 August this year. “The company has only been issued with a prospecting right wherein the company must prospect (search) for the mineral applied for to determine if it is possible to have a mining operation. Such right does not allow the company to mine, but only to prospect,” said the DMR in its written response.
Asked whether the MMG had completed an EIA, the DMR said that the company had submitted a basic assessment report containing an EIA report that indicated the possible impact of the proposed prospecting activities and how they would be mitigated. “According to information on the file that was submitted by the applicant, the said basic assessment report contains a detailed consultation that was conducted by the company as well as a newspaper advert,” reads the DMR’s response. The DMR states that an environmental authorisation was issued to the MMG on 14 August this year. The DMR was clearly reluctant to supply the newspaper with a copy of the public participation process, stating that if the newspaper wanted full details of the report, it should apply for access to information in terms of the country’s Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).
The De Beers Group was also asked for comment on their involvement with the MMG’s proposed mine. Their response was, to say the least, reason for concern. “The De Beers Group has no knowledge of the alleged mine, Mammba Mineral Group, that was launched in Limpopo. De Beers, its executives and representatives did not participate as part of the launch event on 22 September 2018 in Thohoyandou. The company confirms that it does not have a Mr Goodman Ngidi employed at any of its operations as an engineer and would therefore like to disassociate itself from any comments made by him on behalf of the De Beers Group,” was the response received from Jackie Mapiloko, De Beers’senior communications manager.
From the above it is clear that something is happening but definitely not on the grand scale that Mr Mammba is marketing his mine launch as. To find out what the real story behind the mine is, the newspaper tried to contact Mr Mammba through several channels. An Internet search pointed to the MMG’s Facebook page. The last entry, asking people to ‘like’ another page, was made on 12 August.
On the page, the MMG’s postal address is listed as Private Bag X0000, Louis Trichardt, with a Johannesburg phone number. It would, however, seem that this number either does not exist or is not in use anymore as it does not even ring when dialled. The Facebook page also lists an e-mail address for Mr Mammba, as well as a link to the MMG’s website. When one clicks on the website link, an image appears of mining equipment with a message “Coming soon. Few days left”. No other information is supplied, which is strange, considering that another website, also boasting an impressive two-page CV of Mr Mammba, describes the MMG as a company serving most of the world’s largest steel-and-mining companies.
On 9 October last week, the Zoutpansberger sent a media enquiry to Mr Mammba (to the e-mail address listed on his Facebook page) asking him to comment on his proposed mine, the fact that the DMR says he was only granted a prospecting licence and De Beers’ response that they did not know anything about his mine. At the time of our going to press on Wednesday, the newspaper had received neither an acknowledgement of receipt nor a reply. The only cellphone number the newspaper managed to obtain for Mr Mammba also did not yield any results as this number does not exist or is not in use anymore.
Date:22 October 2018 - By: Andries van Zyl
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.