MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Platinum Firms Threaten To Gag Richard Spoor Business Report & Independent Online

Published by MAC on 2006-07-09

Platinum firms threaten to gag Richard Spoor Business Report & Independent Online

By Ronnie Morris

9th July 2006

Cape Town - "Stop attacking us, or we'll gag you through a court order." This is the message Anglo American Platinum (Angloplat), a subsidiary, Potgietersrust Platinum, and partner African Rainbow Minerals (ARM) have for Richard Spoor, a Nelspruit occupational injury specialist attorney who acts for several communities in Limpopo and who wants to stop platinum mining activities on tribal land.

Spoor, who has a history of acting for people and communities in the Northern Cape affected by exposure to asbestos dust and fibres, has been vociferous in his criticism of the conduct of the platinum mining companies on the Hendriksplaats, Onverwacht and Maandagshoek farms.

In a letter to Spoor last Thursday, WP le Roux of the law firm, Brink Cohen Le Roux, said the company had been instructed that Spoor had defamed the mining companies on various occasions and that the defamatory remarks had been published in the media.

Le Roux cited an article in the Business Report on May 14 penned by Spoor in which he had made allegations about Angloplat, Potgietersus Platinum and ARM. He also cited an article in Business Report on June 12, the internet website of minesandcommunities.org on June 25 and the Mail & Guardian of June 23 to 29.

Le Roux said the statements that were published were untrue and defamatory. The lawyers requested Spoor to withdraw the statements and undertake not to defame the platinum mining companies by no later than 2pm tomorrow.

Should Spoor fail to do this, they would apply to the high court for an urgent interdict.

Spoor said on Friday that he was preparing a response. He said the companies wanted to silence the communities and stop them telling the world about their plight.

"The allegations and commentary that [have been] made are no more than a summary of allegations already made under oath and are before the courts in various applications our client communities have filed against Anglo Platinum," Spoor said.

"It's part of my brief to present my clients' case to the court of public opinion.

"The impact of mining and … of multinational corporations on the indigenous communities is well documented around the world. It is the subject of a great deal of writing, commentary, social activism and academic research."

Spoor said one of the core complaints against the companies was racism. "It is unthinkable that white people would be treated the way Anglo treats black people."

Simon Tebele, the company's head of communications, said the threat of an application for an interdict to prevent Spoor from making defamatory statements was not an attempt to prevent him from representing communities.

"We are seeking to ensure that information given to communities or the media is fair and accurate," Tebele said.

The companies have reserved their rights to claim damages from Spoor in respect of defamatory statements.

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