Limpopo's illegal chrome miners take advantage of permits conflict

03 July 2016 - 02:00 By LUTHO MTONGANA and LUCKY BIYASE

South Africa, the world's largest chrome producer, is losing millions in unpaid taxes and mining royalties as a result of an illegal chrome operation in Limpopo. The mine is operating between Polokwane and Burgersfort, about 200m from the R37 road on two mineral-rich farms - Winterveld 417KS in Fetakgomo district and Jagdlust 418KS in the Sekhukhune district.Documents from the Department of Mineral Resources show that in June 2012 a permit was issued to an entity called Kgomoshoka Trading 187 CC to mine chrome, vanadium and nickel on 1.5ha of Winterveld. The permit expired in 2014.Another entity, Nulane Investments, secured a permit in March 2011 to treat mine dumps on Jagdlust. This permit expired in 2013.However, mining is still taking place over an area of about 70ha on the two farms.story_article_left1Mining companies operating on adjoining or nearby properties said the illegal miners were starting to encroach on their areas. These companies did not want to be identified because of pending legal action against the illegal operators.Kgomoshoka Trading, which was started by Nare Abia Dihangwane and Daniel Moretsele, is currently not operating.But Dihangwane and Moretsele have set up a new company called Hlabirwa Pheladi, which obtained a mining permit for the same area that expired in June last year.Dihangwane said last week that he was currently not involved in any mining activity in Winterveld. But he said he was aware that other people were misusing his name."The problem is the people are using my name and my company," he said. "Yes, I have a mining permit but they are misusing my papers, I'm no longer mining there. The people who are mining there, eish - there is a lot of corruption and they are just using my documents."They have just accumulated so many millions of [rands] whereas I don't have anything," said Dihangwane.Moretsele referred Business Times to his personal assistant.His personal assistant, who declined to give his name, said Moretsele had 10-year mining permits issued by the Department of Mineral Resources in 2011.Thulani Kunene, a director of Nulane Investments, confirmed that the company was closed after its mining permits expired in 2013.He said he was also aware that the name of the company was being misused in Winterveld.full_story_image_hright1The Department of Mineral Resources, which is aware of the illegal mining, said its officials had visited the area and realised that the situation was "complex" and required the involvement of law enforcement agencies.Spokeswoman Ayanda Shezi said: "There is already an interdict sought previously by a third party. The only way to approach this matter is through a direct visit with the law enforcement agencies while also awaiting the outcome of two court cases already under way, as brought by third parties."She said there was no mining right, mining permit or prospecting right currently in effect for the area.According to community members, the illegal mining activity started in the second half of last year. It coincided with a sharp fall in commodity prices, which led to some global mining companies cutting down on debt and shutting down some of their operations.Anglo American - whose Twickenham platinum project in the Burgersfort area was placed under care and maintenance in February and more than 1,000 jobs are at risk of being cut - has not been affected by the illegal chrome mining.Anglo Platinum spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said the company was aware of the illegal mining and was working with the government to end it, but the illegal operators had not affected Amplats's activities.The price of chrome dropped from $158 a ton in June last year to $78 a ton in January, but recovered to about $145 a ton this month.Chrome miners, who declined to be named, say about 30,000 tons of chrome a month is mined in the illegal mining area. They say production since July last year totals about 360,000 tons.South Africa produced about 13.3million tons of chrome ore in 2014 and 13.6 million tons in,

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