Based on numerous media reports, Richards Bay Minerals’ general manager was shot dead on Monday morning. Nico Swart was shot dead while driving to work shortly before 7am, with more than 20 high-calibre bullets had been fired into his vehicle. The attack has all the hallmarks of a planned hit.
The circumstances of the shooting are unknown at this stage and the incident is being investigated by the South African Police Services .
Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) mines the vast mineral rich sands of the northern KwaZulu-Natal province and produces predominantly ilmenite, rutile and zircon – materials used in everything from paint to smart phones to sunscreen.
RBM is controlled by Australian mining giant Rio Tinto. RBM is South Africa’s largest mineral sands producer. It halted work on a planned $463-million extension to RBM two years ago in the face of violence and protests.
RBM is a joint venture between Rio Tinto (74%) and Blue Horizon – a consortium of investors and Host Communities Mbonambi, Sokhulu, Mkhwanazi and Dube – which owns 24%. The remaining shares are held in an employee trust.
An observer commented: “This murder is not about stopping the Australians from mining our ecologically threatened areas, it’s about which local gangsters get the BEE spoils, not the local communities.”