MASERU – Storm Mountain Diamonds (Pty) Ltd today blasted the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) for its recent censure of the mining company, saying it was deliberately souring relations between the Mine and the Kao community. Mitford Mundell, chairperson of Storm Mountain Diamonds today (10 October) charged TRC allegations about the mine violating the rights of surrounding communities were false.
Mundell said that SMD remains dismayed by the events of 8 February 2018, which led to the death of Terene Pitae, and injuries to community members, Mokete Mohlomi and Hlopheho Lebona. He called on relevant regulatory bodies to launch an official inquiry into the events of that day, saying it has nothing to hide and will lend all its support to such an inquiry. The mine, he said, was however disappointed that TRC, an NGO with an important mandate in Lesotho, is using its platform and voice to make false allegations thereby sowing discord and tension rather than further its stated objectives of advocating for peace and justice.
He also accused TRC of not seeking an audience with the SMD to discuss issues or grievances it has with the mine, noting this conduct heightened suspicions the rights group wanted to destabilise the area at Kao. TRC last week accused the mine of capturing Butha Buthe police through handouts thus undermining the independence of the security institution which is mandated to restore law, order and protect the rights of citizens.
Responding to the accusation, Mundell denied having an improper relationship with the police but said their presence in the Kao area was important for diamond security, peace and security in general. “SMD provides board and lodging to the police officers stationed at the satellite post at Kao as a resource contribution in a constrained resource environment. There is nothing untoward in this,” Mundell noted.
He added that evidence and intelligence collected by the SMD suggested that certain members of the Kao community committee as well as certain NGOs in Lesotho and “other stakeholders are acting in furtherance of some political agenda and thus are saddened by the picture that emerges”. According to him, the vulnerable communities and their members are pawns in the personal and political games of others to their own detriment.
“The mine again denies that it is non-compliant with Lesotho laws and also denies that its activities damage property on a daily basis, and that it repairs damage selectively.” Responding to the collapse of a sewerage TRC had referred to, he noted that it was actually the failure of a buffer in December 2016, adding the matter was formally reported to the Department of Environment as per the Environment Act of 2008.
He further noted that SMD had further conducted an investigation and made a presentation to the Department of Environment, adding that remedial action was immediately taken and tests conducted showed that the failure did not result in an increase in pollution to the environment. “The flooding of some houses in February 2018 was a result of run-off water from the mountains after excessive rain and the matter was not pollution spill and therefore was not formally reported, but the Department of Environment came to the mine to do an inspection and were satisfied with the report presented,” he said.
According to Mundell, since 2013, SMD has contributed more than M450 million in direct contributions to the fiscus, have employed 659 people, of which 629 are Basotho and over 150 are from the local Kao community. He also noted that since SMD started operating at Kao, it has invested significantly in community projects and infrastructure.
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