mrcAustralian mining firm Mineral Commodities Ltd (MRC) said it is taking legal action against the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) for what it believes was an “illegally obtained search warrant”, after the department raided its west coast mine, Tormin.

The DEA and the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) confirmed that they are conducting a joint investigation into the mine, which is 350km north of Cape Town.

“The department is engaged in a joint compliance investigation on the right-holder, in relation to its environmental obligations,” said Ayanda Shezi, spokesperson, DMR.

DEA spokesperson Albi Modise added that a “joint investigation was conducted and further investigations are underway in relation to Integrated Coastal Management Act transgressions”.

The investigation likely focuses on Tormin’s alleged extraction of garnet and ilmenite from the beach. This is in “breach of the terms of operation under the licence permission”, reported GroundUp’s Glen Ashton, on 1 April 2016.

“In order to do so MRC radically changed Tormin’s mining methodology,” Ashton explained. “The company had been granted permission to pump a concentrated zircon/rutile sand slurry to the processing plant from the beach. Instead a far higher impact method was used, trucking beach sand to the remote separation plant. Instead of removing 5% of the volume of the beach as per the Mines and Works Programme, they were removing nearly 45%.”

MRC’s South African subsidiary, Mineral Sands Resources (MSR), which owns Tormin, is the official body instigating legal action.

“MSR is in the process of challenging the DEA’s illegally obtained search warrant,” said Mark Caruso, chairperson, MRC. “MSR’s Tormin mine site is in compliance with all environmental and mining regulations,” he added.