Is Kropz closer to its goal?
After grappling with environmentalists, the miner, which hopes to extract phosphate in the Western Cape, is still waiting to be granted water and emissions licences.
whenlast we left Kropz, a company in which Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital has shares, it was targeting March for first production of phosphate fertiliser from Elandsfontein, a 1.5m-tonne-a-year project ( Controversy afoot with miner Kropz, 8 December 2016 edition).
Technically, the project was progressing. The risk to Elandsfontein, however, was the opposition of environmentalists such as the West Coast Environmental Protection Agency (WCEPA), which objected to an environmental authorisation (EA) granted to Kropz by the department of mineral resources (DMR) in 2014 when different rules governing the permit were in place.
Environmentalists subsequently applied to take the DMR to the High Court, arguing that the grant was irregular and that excavation at Elandsfontein would lead to pollution of an aquifer that provides the groundwater between the mine and the Langebaan Lagoon, which is right next door.
SANParks weighed in on the issue, arguing that one of the outstanding permits Kropz was still to receive – an Integrated Water Use Licence (IWUL) – ought not be granted by the DMR.
The DMR is yet to file its answering affidavit to the High Court action and until that is lodged, there’s no knowing if the presiding judge will say whether the matter should proceed to court. However, the permits, not the possible court case, are the pressing issue at the moment.
Michelle Lawrence, chief operating officer of Kropz, said correspondence with the department of water and sanitation, the entity that grants the IWUL, had been cordial, but she added that a late change in the design of the Elandsfontein plant requires an air emissions licence from the department of environmental affairs.
“It’s a late design change which requires us to install a dryer. There are other mining companies still operating without an emissions licence but we don’t want to be one of them,” Lawrence told finweek.
In the meantime, it looks as if Elandsfontein will almost certainly miss its March commissioning date and not just because regulatory clearances are outstanding. “We are still busy with some construction work. We are very close but there’s still some development taking place,” she said.
Right now, there’s no pressure on Kropz’s working capital, but Lawrence acknowledges that Elandsfontein’s lenders do need to see phosphate delivered to the port at some point in the near future.