BHP Billiton defends its track record on assisting black mines – by Brendan Ryan (Business Day – October 28, 2013) [South Africa]

IN AN unusually public and hard-hitting statement, mining resources giant BHP Billiton has disputed claims by Transnet CEO Brian Molefe that the miner is not doing enough to promote black economic empowerment (BEE) in South Africa’s coal-mining export industry.

BHP Billiton described Mr Molefe’s statements as being “far from the truth” on Friday and criticised Transnet Freight Rail’s underperformance in matching its capacity to rail coal to Richards Bay Coal Terminal’s (RBCT’s) expanded capacity.

Previously, individual coal exporters have avoided criticising Transnet “on the record” apparently because of fears that the utility, which runs the all-important coal line from Emalahleni to Richards Bay, would penalise them in terms of availability of trains required to haul coal to RBCT for export.

On the rare occasions when the industry has criticised Transnet, it has come from RBCT, whose members include the country’s most important coal-mining and exporting companies.

Responding to questions last week after his presentation of Transnet’s interim results for the six months to end-September, Mr Molefe accused RBCT members of denying access to the export market to small black-owned coal companies.

He singled out BHP Billiton, saying he had recently had a “very disastrous meeting” with the group at which “we nearly came to blows” because it had refused to give upan extra 1-million tonnes per year of export allocation at RBCT for small black mining companies.

BHP Billiton Energy Coal SA president Manie Dreyer rejected Mr Molefe’s claims and provided a list of what the group had done to promote empowerment in the coal export mining sector over the past 12 years.

He said BHP Billiton was disappointed by the way Mr Molefe portrayed it as denying small, independent exporters access to RBCT by refusing to relinquish a portion of its existing export entitlement at the port.

“In reality, BHP Billiton has been responsible for numerous empowerment transactions since 2001 which resulted in 8-million tonnes per year of BHP Billiton’s original port capacity of 26-million tonnes a year being transferred to black-owned mining companies,” Mr Dreyer said.

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