- members of the public will be introduced to the mining company by the Eswatini government Minerals and Management Board
- an estimated 32 million tons of ore remained in the soil
Mbabane-His Majesty King Mswati III has granted Mineral Rights to Mwelase Mining Eswatini (Pty) Ltd for Iron Ore Resources at the Ngwenya Iron Ore site.
Mwelase Mining has also been granted mining and rehabilitation rights of the iron ore rights and the slime dam at the same site. According to a statement issued by the Town Clerk of the Ngwenya Town Board, Phumzile Tshabalala, members of the public will be introduced to the mining company by the Eswatini government Minerals and Management Board.
The Swaziland Iron Ore Development Company (SIODC), owned by the Anglo-American Corporation, started mining of the deposit in 1964. A ten-year contract with a Japanese company made it the largest consumer of the iron ore. The open pit mining took place between 1964 and 1977, temporarily boosting the economic development of the area by establishing the Goba railway line connecting the mine with the Mozambique Railway System, and an electricity supply network (Matsapha industrial Site). An estimated 20,000,000 tonnes of iron ore have been extracted from the mine. However, an estimated 32 million tons of ore remained in the soil. Supposedly the Anglo-American Corporation stopped prospecting the mine because it got flooded.
The Indian group Salgaocar operated the modern-day mine from 2011 to 2014 through the Salgaocar Swaziland limited Company. Before allocating the mine to Salgaocar, the king Mswati III dismissed the National Trust Commission’s request to protect the area from new mining activities, and replaced the entire board of the Commission to permanently stop those demands.
Those operations lead to a heavy pollution of the water sources that feed the city of Mbabane. Among many environmental issues, the mining operations are a threat to the Disa intermedia, a protected orchid growing exclusively in the region. Cases of corruption to get the mining licence were reported, including a $28 million donation to the king by Salgaocar. The deal established a 25% ownership of the mine for the king, 25% for the government, and 50% to Salgaocar. Reports also claimed that Salgaocar was using Mozambican and South African trucks to avoid paying import taxes. 2,500 jobs were announced after the Salgaocar-Swazi deals, but the positions were never created. Salgaocar ceased its mining activities in Ngwenya in 2014.