In trying to get its mine back into action, Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) has lifted a corner on the ungainly world of community Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) deals. What has been happening has been a stunning, disastrous and deadly mess.
RBM, 74% owned by Australian mining giant Rio Tinto, has been the most recent poster child for SA’s dysfunctional mining legislative and administrative environment.
The facts are worth a quick review. In May this year, RBM general manager of operational services Nico Swart was murdered on his way to work. More than 20 high-calibre bullets were fired into Swart’s car: this was obviously not a random killing. This was a professional hit.
Subsequently, a whole collection of RBM’s mining equipment was set on fire, notwithstanding the intervention of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) Minister Gwede Mantashe. Operations were shut down to protect the business and employees, and force majeure was declared.
RBM is KwaZulu-Natal’s largest tax-payer. It contributed about R8-billion to the local economy in 2020. To complicate matters, a mine extension is necessary to lengthen the life of the mine, which would otherwise have to close in about 2030. The…