Mr Ernest Mammba (left) of the Mammba Metal Group and his chief operating officer, Mr Lentsoane Sedume, pose for a photo with some of the prospecting samples they recovered from the site of what they say will be the biggest mine in South Africa.
Date: 29 October 2018 By: Andries van Zyl
Mr Ernest Mammba, chairman of the Mammba Metal Group (MMG), was quick to respond to the Zoutpansberger’s report last week that many questions existed regarding his launch of the “biggest” mine in South Africa on 22 September this year.
“We are very disappointed. In the article, a lot of things are wrong,” said Mammba during a visit to the newspaper’s office early Monday morning. He was accompanied by his chief operating officer, Mr Lentsoane Sedume, and the private consultant who handled their basic assessment application to the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), Mr Livhuwani Mudau.
In last week’s article, the newspaper asked the question why so little is known about the more than 13 000 hectare “biggest” mine in the country that is coming to the Vhembe District, who exactly the developers are, where exactly the mine is to be situated and why there is no record of any environmental impact assessment, especially since Mammba indicated during the launch that they will be operational within two months. Another question mark was placed on De Beers’ involvement with the mine, especially after a Mr Goodman Ngidi was quoted as saying that De Beers was happy to fund the mining venture. When asked by our reporters about his identity, Ngidi responded that he was a De Beers engineer.
Following the launch, the newspaper asked the DMR if they were aware of the mine and whether a mining right and license had been issued to the MMG. De Beers was also asked about their involvement with the mine. In response, the DMR indicated that the MMG was only issued a prospecting license, while the De Beers Group indicated that they knew nothing of Mammba’s mining venture, nor did they have a Mr Goodman Ngidi in their employ anywhere in the country.
Mammba, whom the newspaper tried to contact several times by means of the telephone number and email address supplied on the official Facebook page, without success, said that these contact details were old. “That is why you could not find me,” he stated.
Mammba went to great lengths on Monday to “put the record straight” regarding his mine, although not really indicating what was factually incorrect in the initial article. His biggest concern was the negative impact the article could have on investor confidence.
The biggest point of contention was the issue of Mr Goodman Ngidi. “No, that one he is an agent [for somebody else]. Those people [referring to the newspaper’s journalists] just grabbed him because he was there,” said Mammba. He then confirmed that Ngidi did not work for De Beers but was there representing the mine’s investor.
So, if not De Beers, who is funding the mine? Mammba indicated that the mine will be funded both privately and by investors. He did not, however, want to reveal any information about his investors. “There are several people who are funding us, but you see, the issue of people funding us is confidential,” said Mammba. He did, however, indicate that his investor had years of experience in the mining industry. “This guy has got 24 mines now as we are speaking ... it is not a new company,” said Mammba.
Mammba admitted that they indeed had only a prospecting licence. Regarding his comment that they could be operational within two months, he explained that this referred to the granting of their bulk sampling application. Should they be granted this, they would be able to mine up to a certain tonnage. Mammba said that the granting of this application could happen within the next couple of weeks and that the sale of the mined tonnage would help fund the mine. “Everything is ready. All the equipment is there,” said Mammba.
But even though all the equipment might be ready, a lot of legal processes still have to unfold. Mammba indicated that they had started with their application for a mining right. Until this right is granted, no mining will be allowed. The process is also subject to the granting of a water license by the Department of Water and Sanitation. These processes could take months, if not years.
Despite this, Mammba has high expectations for the mine. Their prospecting license makes provision for the prospecting of chrome ore, coal, copper ore, diamonds, gold, iron ore, manganese ore, nickel ore and platinum. They have already found some of the minerals applied for, such as iron ore, manganese and lime. “The total value of the mine would be R50 billion plus,” said Mammba. “Most of the operations will be open-cast, but we are going to be opening more than 60-something shafts,” added Mammba.
Mammba said that he would like to put residents’ concerns at ease regarding the proposed mine. “What we can tell the people is that we are ready. The mine is coming to them. What we are waiting for is for the Royal Council and Thovhele Tshivhase to give us the go-ahead as soon as he has finalised speaking to the other villages who are affected … we are also waiting for a mining right and our bulk sampling … [as for time] this will depend on communication between the DMR, us and the tribal council … we must work hand in hand,” said Mammba
The mine is to be situated on the farm Chibase 213 MT in the Thulamela District, comprising 13 043 hectares. It is tribal land under the control of Thovhele Tshivhase, situated some 30 km west of Thohoyandou and including villages such as Mukumbani, Murangoni, Tshidzivhe, Tshilungwi, Tshiheni, and Tshiavha. The farm is also subject to several land claims. As recently as 10 August this year, notice was given in the Government Gazette in terms of the Restitution of Land Rights that an amendment was made to Gazette notice 647 of 2017 that a further eight individual claimants had lodged claims against the farm. The eight names form part of an ever-growing number of claimants on the farm. In the Government Gazette of 10 February 2017, a similar notice appeared, indicating that 19 more claimants were added.
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.