New “approach” by prospecting company

Henriette Pauw

THABAZIMBI – No prospecting and mining activities will be undertaken on farms where farmers don’t agree to this, says Allan Tavakolli, director of South African Steel Company (Sasco) and Thabazimbi Mineral Resources.
Sasco and Thabazimbi Mineral Resources have applied for prospecting permits in January on 13 farms to the east and 7 farms to the west of Thabazimbi respectively, some in very ecological sensitive areas such as parts of the Kransberg, close to the vulture breeding colonies and a water catchment area. Even municipal property, on which Raphuti lies, has been targeted.
In Die Kwêvoël of 20 February it was reported about the 13 farms on which Sasco has applied for prospecting rights. These include Weikrans, Weihoek, Badenoch, Buffelshoek, Zandfontein, Paardekraal, Groothoek, Olifantshoek, Donkerhoek, Boschfontein and Donkerpoort.
Apparently on seven other farms, more towards the west of Thabazimbi, a company, called Thabazimbi Mineral Resources, has applied for seven more prospecting permits during the same period.
These farms are Sweet Home 322 KQ, Koedoesfontein 324 KQ (involved in cheetah conservation), Hampton 320 KQ, Amsterdam 123 KQ (part of Thaba Tholo), Kameelpoort 332 KQ, Fairlawn 336 KQ and Nooitgedacht 338 KQ.
According to Piet van Rensburg of the farm Nooitgedacht, Aquila Steel, the Australian mining company, has not found any iron deposits worth exploiting on Nooitgedacht. Apart from this prospecting application his farm was also earmarked for one of the possible positions for the erection of a weir to dam water in the Crocodile River for the power station developments at Lephalale and Steenbokpan.
The two companies Sasco and Thabazimbi Mineral Resources, which have both been registered with CIPRO (Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office) in November last year are basically replicas with exactly the same letterheads, the same director (Allen Tavakolli), the same physical, postal address and the same auditors.
According to the CIPRO registration register Thabazimbi Mineral Resources is a company which manufactures coke, refined petroleum products and nuclear fuel, it manufactures chemicals and chemical products and it manufactures rubber and plastic products. The CIPRO register did not supply information on the type of activities Sasco is involved in.
On the letters of notification which were sent out to the farmers neither the companies’ registration numbers or list of directors appeared, which is non-compliant with the law.
Tavakolli was asked why he would be interested in mining where other exploration companies have not found any iron ore deposits worth exploiting. Tavakolli explained that his mining companies were not necessarily interested in big iron deposits such as Kumba and Aquilla which mine in the Bushveld and Northern Cape where ore is moved from soil to rail to ship to China with a minimum of value added.
He said that his company was interested in small scale mining, producing about 200 000 to 300 000 tons of iron per year which will be processed in a plant which he intends building in Thabazimbi. The factory will manufacture reinforcement and angle bars and wire rods. He estimates that about 2 000 jobs will be created.
He claims that his approach to mining also vastly differs from other mining companies, because his company involves the community and farmers in the business and they become shareholders in his company, as well as his approach to stockpiling finds and rehabilitating the environment.
Farm owners will receive between 5% and 10% royalties of whatever is mined on their properties, says Tavakolli. He also said that no build up of finds will occur since it will be removed regularly and rehabilitation will take place as the mining continues.
He compared this to cooking and washing dishes while you cook as opposed to first finish cooking and then tackle the dirty kitchen with piles of dishes. The way he intends mining is to “wash up” as he goes along.
According to Tavakolli he has been involved in similar mining ventures in Namibia, Botswana and Zambia. He did not respond to the request of providing visual footage of mining activities in Africa which he was involved in.
Tavakolli said that at a cost of R30 000 per prospecting hole he is not interested in forcing himself on any farmer who does not welcome prospecting and mining activities on his property. His company’s approach is one of shareholding with farmers and the community. He himself is owner of Smokey Mountain, a property in the Thabazimbi district, and was subjected to 39 holes drilled on his farm by Aquilla Steel.
Despite these reassurances, experts say that proper processes must still be followed and it is important that objections by interested and affected parties are lodged through the proper channels. Copies of all objections must be submitted to both the prospecting company and the Dept of Mineral and Energy (DME).
The person at the department who is responsible for processing the application is Mrs Zietsman. Her telephone number is 015 287 4769, fax number 015 287 4706/4729. The postal address is Private Bag X9467, Polokwane.
There are concerns as to whether proper procedures are being followed in this application. According to DME instructions enclosed with the letters of notification (of the prospecting application) to landowners, a process of public participation should have taken place, an Environmental Management Plan should have been submitted as well as a Prospecting Work Programme by mid-March. According to Tavakolli a public meeting will be held shortly.