Kimberley’s last diamond miner, Ekapa, struggles to stay afloat as artisanal miner deal unravels

Kimberly South Africa Diamonds

KIMBERLEY Ekapa Mining, the last major diamond company operating in Kimberley, has imposed a three-month, 12.5% salary reduction across the board on its staff in an attempt to remain economically viable in the face of slumping diamond prices and renewed problems with illegal miners on its property.

The operation was formerly run as a joint venture with London-listed, Petra Diamonds, which sold its 75.9% controlling stake in July last year to partner Ekapa for R300m.

At the time, Ekapa was experiencing major problems with illegal miners operating on its properties, but had – hopefully – reached a workable solution after surrendering 600 hectares of its ground to the illegal miners provided they stayed off the rest of the company’s lease area.

That was in terms of a deal brokered by the Department of Mineral Resources & Energy and the Sol Plaatje Municipality which runs Kimberley. The deal, lauded at the time by mines minister, Gwede Mantashe, was called the Batho Pele initiative and the former illegal miners were reclassified as artisanal miners.

Yet KEM CEO, Jahn Hohne, has now revealed that KEM is still spending R3m a month on security measures to keep the miners off mine property after further incidents including arson on some of the company’s haul vehicles.

Hohne could not be reached directly for comment.

In reply to written questions the company issued a statement saying: “Kimberley Ekapa Mining is reliably informed that an alleged new third force of illegal miners is attempting to muscle in and around the Batho Pele initiative.

“They are using force; trespassing; conducting illegal mining; sabotaging mine infrastructure and allegedly being supported by illegal diamond traders”.

Asked what was being done about the situation, the company replied: “Kimberley Ekapa Mining is working closely with all relevant stakeholders … to ensure the success of the initiative”.

According to the statement the current crunch in the global diamond market, which has hit small diamond prices particularly hard, “… equates to an approximately 20% year-on-year price decrease in dollar terms for Ekapa’s mining operations in Kimberley”.

Hohne had originally proposed a 25% wage cut which was vehemently rejected by the National Union of Mineworkers and the union has also rejected the 12.5% cut now imposed.

This is despite Hohne’s commitment that the reductions will be repaid “… from the earliest available distributable profits when the new business model is successful”.

The statement said management was engaging directly with the NUM in the Northern Cape and that “… at the time of this response Kimberley Ekapa Mining had not received any formal notification of a dispute being declared”.

Source: miningmx