Mine lashes at TRC

Mine lashes at TRC

MASERU – A shameless bunch of liars bent on sowing discord.
That is the withering judgment delivered against the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) by Storm Mountain Diamond (SMD) yesterday.
At a no-holds barred press conference in Maseru yesterday, SMD which owns Kao Mine, accused the TRC of peddling dangerous falsehoods against the mine.
The statement comes a week after the TRC issued its own statement in which it accused the mine of “gross human rights violations”.
It also accused the mine of capturing the police to do its bidding.

The TRC said Kao Mine bosses were complicit in the death of Terene Pitae during a protest march on February 8.
Two other villagers, Mokete Mohlomi and Hlopheho Lebona, were also hurt during the protest.
SMD board chairman, Mitford Mundell, said the allegations were all false.
Mundell accused the TRC of “spreading false news”.

“The TRC is provoking conflict, pitting stakeholders against each other,” he said.
He added that the organisation was also “jeopardising social cohesion and important stakeholder relationships”.
Regarding the death of a villager during a protest march earlier this year, the mine called for a full inquiry into what happened during the protest.
“SMD has nothing to hide and will lend all its support to such an inquiry,” he said.

Mundell also rejected charges by the TRC that the mine had captured the police.
“SMD emphatically denies having an improper relationship with the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) which could jeopardise their independence,” he said.
He said LMPS officers were at the mine “to carry out their legislative mandate of upholding the law, preventing crime and apprehending offenders”.
Mundell said they had to call in the police after some community members unlawfully blocked roads and threatened mine workers.

“It is unfortunate that the relevant community members did not communicate their grievances to SMD prior to undertaking the unlawful activities,” he said.
“If they had done so the parties may have found ways to deal with any issues by way of discussion and dialogue.”

Mundell said SMD is disappointed that the TRC as an NGO with an important mandate in Lesotho is using its platform and its voice to make false allegations.
He accused the TRC of sowing discord and tension rather than furthering its stated objectives of advocating of peace and justice by way of friendly, patient persuasion.
“While the TRC easily makes serious allegations against SMD, it never seeks an audience with SMD to discuss issues or grievances that it has,” he added.
He said the TRC’s conduct makes one to suspect that certain individuals at the organisation are only interested in sensationalism and conflict, or that they have an agenda to destabilise the area at Kao.
Mundell also lashed out at what he said were the many “false perceptions about the mining industry in Lesotho”.
He said such perceptions were being pushed by the TRC.

“It is disheartening to see important institutions and lobby groups such as the PAC (Public Accounts Committee) and the TRC peddle cheap sensationalism.
“These organisations have a duty to act in good faith and not to mislead the public,” he said.

Mundell said the TRC alleges that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had discovered that SMD owes royalties and taxes to the government.
“This allegation is also not true. SMD is fully compliant with all of its tax obligations,” he said.

He said SMD has also paid all the royalties that are due to the government of Lesotho as per its timing agreement read with the Mines and Minerals Act 2005.
Mundell was also particularly miffed by the PAC which he accused of pushing a “populist” agenda.
“The PAC is operating way beyond its mandate as a parliamentary committee. It has a legislative mandate but is assuming the role of both the executive (acting as a regulator) and the judiciary (issuing ‘directives’,” he said.

The PAC’s views on royalties and tax owing by the mines is very misguided, he said.
The mine rejected charges that it was non-compliant with Lesotho’s laws.

It also denied that its activities “damage property” and that it repairs damaged property selectively.
He said it is in the nature of mining activities that some communities would be affected.
He said SMD is guided by policies and procedures to deal with affected communities.

“These policies and procedures are based on legal requirements, and where there are no legal standards in Lesotho, on international best practices,” he said.
He said the mine has a community grievance register and deals with all grievances that are reported to the mine.

On the relocation of Tiping villagers, SMD said it is conducting the resettlement in line with all relevant laws and best practices.
“The community members have been widely consulted and have participated in the decision-making processes,” he said.
“It is not clear why the TRC would want to derail this sensitive but inevitable process.”
He accused the TRC of making “vague, unsubstantiated and unconvincing arguments”.

Staff Reporter

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