Kimberley businesses furious with multinational diamond mining company

They accuse Petra Diamonds of overlooking them for all but small contracts

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Photo of Petra Diamond offices
Kimberley small businesses have accused Petra Diamonds of overlooking them on substantial contracts. Photo: Douglas Mthukwane

Small businesses in Kimberley are at their “wits end” with multinational mining giant Petra Diamonds. They have called for mass action aimed at closing down its mines.

Local suppliers have slammed what they have called an “untransformed international mining bully” because the company allegedly overlooks local suppliers and service providers.

Leading the charge is the Frances Baard Business Forum. On 2 February the forum led a protest to Petra’s offices. The protesters expressed concerns that the company only awarded local businesses tenders below R10,000 for the provision of small items such as as toilet paper, coffee and sugar.

They accuse the company of only giving large capital tenders to contractors or companies in Johannesburg with addresses listed in Kimberley, when in fact they are not located in the Northern Cape.

Spokeswoman Neo Modise explained that while the mining giant responded to their memorandum within the stipulated seven days, “It was only to pay lip service to local black [small and medium sized businesses]. They haven’t addressed our demands honestly.”

“Only 1% of long-term capital tenders are awarded to local contractors. That’s why we are mobilising the unemployed youth for rolling mass action to close down the mine,” she said.

Forum member Wesley Senwedi said this will include a parallel process to meet with the Minister of Small Business Development and the Minister of Mineral Resources, because, he alleged, local authorities don’t have the will to resolve their frustrations.

“Our attempts to peacefully encourage management to source services and goods locally have failed. Not even their Johannesburg office is prepared to sit with us so all avenues of peaceful resolution has been closed. It’s crystal clear that local black business is blocked from procurement opportunities.”

Modise slammed the lack of opportunities provided by the company for people living in Kimberley’s Greenpoint and Diamond Park areas. “Community members make a living by collecting small diamonds from mining dumps in the area as no social or labour plans exist.”

Petra security officers regularly chase informal miners and confiscate their handmade tools.

Petra spokesperson Gert Klopper expressed shock at “violent threats to our businesses.” He said that consequently “entering our premises will be subject to a stringent security vetting process. We have an obligation to ensure safety and security of our mining rights area in the interest of accountability and the health and safety of the public among others.”

Klopper said that it remains a challenge for the company to source capital equipment from local suppliers due to availability issues with the suppliers and equipment. He said Petra does favor local companies for small items such as toilet paper, coffee and sugar for “practical” reasons, but there have been local business tenders that exceed R10,000

Klopper declined to divulge details of successful contractors or beneficiaries’ of their social responsibility projects. But he said, “I can confirm that several initiatives were put in place to facilitate the training and development of youth and facilitate their entry into the job market.”

“We funded various community projects including schools, maths and science laboratories, [as well as] day-care and a vehicle for the physically disabled.”

TOPICS:  Economy Mining

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