Directors of the Australian-owned Mintails could face charges after a parliamentary investigation found that the company is R460m short on the money it owes to clean up the environment at its mining operations near Krugersdorp, says a Business Day report. Sparked by an Oxpeckers investigation into Mintails’ failing 1 715ha gold surface re-treatment operation, Parliament’s Committee on Mineral Resources launched its own inquiry, uncovering illegal activities and lax oversight by the company and the Department of Mineral Resources.

After Mintails went into liquidation in August, about 750 people are out of work, while 90% of the funds expected to be recovered by the liquidation process will likely end up with an investor in London, according to letters from the business rescue practitioner to the Minerals Resources Department revealed in court papers.

Documents made public in the liquidation proceedings revealed majority shareholder Paige Limited is the only secured creditor. Paige is an investment vehicle run by the wealthy Harbour family, and London-based Gideon Harbour is one of Mintails’s remaining directors.

Court records show workers and the environment are unlikely to receive a cent.

In addition to clean-up costs, the company owes creditors more than R710m.

The portfolio committee’s report found mining companies’ provisions for clean-up funds were often inadequate, and that the Department of Mineral Resources had ‘failed’ to manage mine closure. Legislation had ‘not proven effective in avoiding this situation where the state and the taxpayer still end up paying for the environmental harm caused by mining’.

A Department of Mineral Resources spokesperson said the department was working with NGOs to address the committee’s findings.

Full Business Day report