A gold mine in Swaziland opened by King Mswati III promising more than 400 jobs has been closed after allegations of poor management.
The Lufafa Gold Mine (now known as Lomati) at Hhelehhele in the Hhohho region was in February 2016 reported to have more than two million tonnes of ore which could contain about 15,000 kilograms of gold. It had an estimated value of more than E4 billion (US$263 million). Twenty-five percent of this would be held by King Mswati ‘in trust’ for the Swazi nation. Lufafa Managing Director Mihla Dlamini said at the time there was enough gold to be dug for a period of 35 years.
Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Jabulile Mashwama said on Monday (9 October 2017) the mine had been shut down after concerns were raised by different stakeholders about the running and administration of the company.
The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday this was revealed by the Minister during the ministry’s first quarter portfolio committee debate. The newspaper added, ‘The minister said there had been an enquiry into the running of the mine after which it was resolved that it had been closed down while the company tries to put its house in order.
‘“Following a number of negative reports about the mine, the ministry took it upon itself to visit the mine and look into its running, upon arrival we realised there was a lot wrong and we had an enquiry look into it,” she said.
‘The minister said the findings from the enquiry showed that there was a lot wrong hence the decision to shut down the mine so that the company could put their house in order.
‘“We have been informed by the company that they have changed management for the effective running of the mine and further resolve the problems which were identified during the enquiry,” she said.’
The mine reportedly will reopen before the end of October 2017.
When the King officially opened the mine in February 2016, he said it would bring 400 jobs at the mine and in the community. The Observer on Saturday newspaper reported (27 February 2016), ‘The King said he so wishes that the gold mine would perform well in order to bring more opportunities since he has seen for himself that the directors have demonstrated a good working leadership.’
The mine was shrouded in secrecy. At the opening ceremony journalists were prevented from taking pictures by security forces and Minister of Natural Resources, Jabulile Mashwama. The Nation magazine on its Facebook page said this created, ‘suspicion about the extraction of the mineral in the country’.
The Nation reported, ‘Sources told The Nation that the directors of [the mining company] did not want pictures of the mine to be published “for security reasons”. Journalists were only allowed to photograph the event at the entrance of the mine, where a tent was pitched for King Mswati to meet the local community, and at the reception held at Pigg’s Peak.’
Before the opening, in June 2015, the Observer on Saturday reported its journalists were barred from entering the Lufafa premises.
The newspaper reported at the time, ‘The reason for barring the Observer on Saturday team could not be established as security personnel from For Him Security Services only declared that the authorities had instructed them not to allow anyone inside the premises. Even efforts to get the security to speak to the authorities and inform them it was the Observer on Saturday team that wanted an audience with them to ascertain how much ground the company had covered concerning the opening of the mine, but the very same answer was forwarded to the team that the authorities at the mine still did not want the team to enter the premises.’
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