Dlamini-Zuma again given five days to amend lockdown regulations

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

Or face contempt of court charge – following a challenge brought by Liberty Fighters Network. From Moneyweb.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s failure to lodge her additional appeal on time means many of the measures undertaken under the regulations are no longer legally enforceable. Image: Moneyweb

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s failure to lodge her additional appeal on time means many of the measures undertaken under the regulations are no longer legally enforceable. Image: Moneyweb

Reyno de Beer of the Liberty Fighters Network (LFN) has spent years waging war against the banks, property investment companies and speculators over unlawful repossessions and evictions, and has accumulated more than a few impressive court victories along the way.

He has no formal legal training, other than an aborted effort to complete a BCom Law degree, abandoned due to lack of funds.

But that hasn’t stopped him from taking on the whales of the legal world.

Legal experts like consumer crusader Leonard Benjamin have commended De Beer’s guts and the careful framing of his legal arguments.

And he now has Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in his sights. This week he fired off a letter to the minister and her legal team giving her five days to amend lockdown regulations already declared unconstitutional by the courts, or she will face a contempt of court charge – which is a criminal offence.

Follow-on action

This follows an action brought by LFN in June last year in the Pretoria High Court declaring the national state of disaster, established under the Disaster Management Act, declared unconstitutional and unlawful.

Judge Norman Davis ruled that most of the regulations were irrational and invalid.

Read: Dlamini-Zuma told to amend invalid lockdown regulations

This ruling was appealed by government, and the case has ricocheted through the courts since then.

Earlier this month Judge Davis ruled again, this time dismissing LFN’s application to have the national state of disaster declared invalid, and to declare Dlamini-Zuma in contempt of court for not amending the offending regulations after the June 2020 judgment.

Davis explained that “the factual, regulatory and legal landscapes” had undergone unprecedented changes since the Covid lockdown was first announced in March 2020.

De Beer says behind all the legal argument is a frightening overreach of government power dressed up as a health crisis.

The crisis required every South African to surrender their human rights to unaccountable authorities, often guided by poor science.

Millions of people have been thrown out of work, lost their businesses or suffered a reduction in income, while no serious effort appears to have been made to find less drastic measures to avert this outcome.

Read:The increasing absurdity of Patel’s red pen (May 2020)

Dlamini-Zuma hauled to court over latest ‘illogical’ lockdown extension (Nov 2020)

Tobacco ban unconstitutional and invalid  (Dec 2020)

Lockdown regulations were amended several times, presenting a moving target for the various groups challenging them.

Judge agrees with ‘absurdity’ of beach ban

LFN pointed to the ridiculousness of banning beach visits in its campaign to contain the spread of the virus, and claimed the science behind mask-wearing is unconvincing. The group also wants the ban on religious gatherings overturned, though Judge Davis said this had been rendered moot by the latest amendment to the lockdown regulations allowing for church gatherings up to certain limits.

Despite a judgment that appears to go heavily against LFN, Davis did agree with some aspects of the LFN case, such as the “absurdity” of the beach ban, which has since been lifted.

While a plain reading of the judgment suggests victory for the government, this is far from the case, according to De Beer.

“The government’s appeal against the June 2020 judgment had lapsed by 12 October 2020 due to the minister’s late filing of her court papers. We are saying that renders all of her regulations under the Disaster Management Act to be null and void, which means any of the restrictions on going to beaches, religious gatherings, selling alcohol outside the regulated times – all of these are of no legal force. The judgment by Judge Davis did not overturn this aspect of the June 2020 ruling he made.

”We have now put the minister on terms,” says De Beer

“She has five days to amend the regulations to comply with the court ruling of June 2020 or we will bring a contempt of court application against her personally on the normal court roll, rather than as a matter of urgency.”

The LFN letter to the minister reads: “It appears as if you yourself, Minister, [are] being put on a ‘wild goose chase’ by your legal team, and especially having failed to lodge your appeal on time creating massive difficulties for you at present.”

The minister’s failure to lodge her additional appeal on time meant that many of the measures undertaken under the Disaster Regulations are no longer legally enforceable.

‘No merit’ says State Attorney

In a letter of reply to the LFN, the State Attorney says the regulations in dispute have been repealed and replaced by the minister. “There is therefore no merit to the threatened contempt application, and there are no measures to the minister to take in order to ‘comply’ with the court order.”

The State Attorney also appears to take offence at LFN’s approach to the late filing of the appeal by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), and says it will now ask the SCA to make a determination on the condonation application (asking permission for a late filing to be forgiven) as a matter of urgency.

De Beer says he is pleased with the outcome of the ruling by Judge Davis “as it confirmed that many of our arguments were spot on”.

However, he is disappointed with the judge’s refusal to overturn the compulsory wearing-of-masks regulation on the grounds this was needed to protect others.

“This stance is factually misplaced as the court chose to ignore several facts proving that it’s nothing but propaganda,” says De Beer.

The LFN will consider whether to formally request leave to appeal this part of the ruling in the SCA.

Chinese economic recovery helps Kumba to record profits

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

Despite production setbacks due to Covid. From Moneyweb.

Kumba announced a R3.6bn investment to extend the life of its Sishen open cast mine to 2040. Image: Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg

Kumba announced a R3.6bn investment to extend the life of its Sishen open cast mine to 2040. Image: Waldo Swiegers, Bloomberg

It was the year of Covid, but also of China’s remarkable economic recovery.

The country brushed aside the effects of the pandemic in the second half of 2020 to record 6% growth in steel production over the previous year. Chinese infrastructure investment declined 20% in the first quarter of 2020, then swung back to register nearly 1% year-on-year growth.

This worked to Kumba Iron Ore’s advantage, pushing average realised prices for the year to $115 a ton.

The average price of iron ore fines delivered into Chinese ports ended 2020 17% higher than the previous year due to surging demand, helped by government stimulus packages to revive the economyand supply disruptions in key supplier economies, notably Brazil, SA, Canada, Chile and Peru.

Kumba was able to command a slightly higher than average market price due to the quality of product it supplies, the result of a deliberate programme focusing on higher value iron ore.

Total tonnage mined decreased by 14% to 256Mt from 297Mt the previous year, mainly due to Covid and weather-related disruptions, as well as equipment reliability and availability.

Higher iron ore prices and a weaker rand translated to a record Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of R45.8 billion and free cash flow of R20.7 billion for the 2020 financial year.

“Our Ebitda margin rose to 57%, up from 52% in 2019 as we adapted our value chain and capitalised on our high quality iron ore products. Together with the strengthening price, this allowed us to achieve a 19% higher average realised FOB [free-on-board] export price,” said Kumba CEO Themba Mkhwanazi at a results presentation on Tuesday.

Margins were further boosted by cost discipline resulting in savings of R1.3 billion, including R613 million of Covid-related savings.


Kumba also announced a R3.6 billion investment to extend the life of its Sishen operation in the Northern Cape to 2040, using advanced ultra-high dense media separation (UHDMS) technology to optimise output. This technology allows Kumba to produce high quality iron ore from low grade material containing iron ore of between 40% and 48%.

Last year Kumba and Anglo American gave the go-ahead for the Kapstevel South mine at Kolomela, which it is estimated will cost R7 billion and yield an internal after-tax rate of return of about 25%.

Mkhwanazi says the company is continuing with its exploration programme in the Northern Cape to further develop its resource pipeline.

Total capex for 2021 is expected to be around R11 billion, which includes the deferral of non-critical capital spending from 2020. Slightly less than half of this will go to the development of the Kapstevel South pit, and the UHDMS project to recover low grade material.

Key figures

  • Revenue of R80.1 billion, up 24.6% on 2019
  • Operating expenses up 10.7% to R39.1 billion
  • Attributable free cash flow of R20.7 billion, up by 21%
  • Return on Capital Employed of 109%, up from 83%
  • Final cash dividend of R41.30 per share, giving a total cash dividend of R60.90 per share
  • Average realised FOB export price of $115/tonne
  • Cost savings of R1.3 billion, keeping C1 costs at US$31/t
  • Ebitda margin of 57%, up from 52%
  • Sishen life extension potential to 2039 with R3.6 billion UHDMS project approved in February 2021.

Source: Kumba 2020 annual results

As cryptos shoot for the stars, consider rand cost averaging

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

Investing a regular amount in crypto each month is a proven way to grow your account over time. From Moneyweb.

The main advantage of rand cost averaging is that you don’t have to worry about trying to time the market. Image: Chris Ratcliffe, Bloomberg

The main advantage of rand cost averaging is that you don’t have to worry about trying to time the market. Image: Chris Ratcliffe, Bloomberg

This may be a frightening time for anyone considering getting involved in cryptos for the first time. Bitcoin appears headed for $60 000 (R887 000) after cracking $20 000 (R295 668) two months ago. It’s up 185% in just eight weeks.

Ethereum broke $600 just two months ago and is now headed for $2 000 – a gain of 230% in two months.

Cardano is up nearly 500% in the last two months.

These gains are so dizzying that many fear they have missed the boat, though these same fears were expressed in prior years when bitcoin first broke R10 000, then R100 000, and then R300 000.

Each time bitcoin has broken its previous high.

“Many people fear crypto prices have shot [up] so high that it is too late to enter the market, but we should remember that there have been price surges like this in the past. Instead of trying to enter at a favourable price, investing a bit every month is a proven way participate in the rise in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin,” says Farzam Ehsani, CEO of crypto exchange VALR.

Moneyweb previously reported on the advantages of rand cost averaging in November 2020, but that article certainly needs updating in light of recent price moves.

Had you invested $100 a month over the last three years, your total capital invested to date would be $3 700 (R54 000 at an average ZAR/USD exchange rate of R14.60).

That $3 700 invested would have grown to an astonishing $25 000 (R365 000) over three years.

Take a look at the following graph from Dollar Cost Averaging Bitcoin (dcabtc.com). Dollar (or rand) cost averaging is where you invest a regular amount of money in an asset, usually monthly or weekly.

Investing $100 a month for three years would have grown your bitcoin holdings to $25 000, a 575% growth on the capital invested. By way of comparison, the same amount invested in the Dow Jones Industrial Index (the red line in the graph below) would have returned $4 460 over the same period, while gold would have returned $4 488.

Source: dcabtc.com

The rand cost averaging strategy is advisable for investors who are looking to buy bitcoin for the long term, since it protects them from potentially allocating all their capital at a price peak.

It is possible to tweak this strategy by using charts to time your investment, particularly when bitcoin looks oversold on a relative strength index (RSI). The chart below shows the RSI (in purple) against the USD bitcoin price. Prices are generally considered “overbought” when the RSI is above 70 and “oversold” below 30. As can be seen from the chart below, bitcoin’s RSI hasn’t been near 30 in months due to the strength of the bull market, so an RSI of 40-50 would have substituted for a good entry point.

Source: Cryptopurview

For those with little technical knowledge of markets, however, it is better to avoid trying to time the market.

Sean Sanders, CEO of crypto investment platform Revix, says rand cost averaging has become a favoured method for retail investors looking to capitalise on the phenomenal growth in crypto assets prices in recent months.

“It’s a relatively safe way to invest, and you don’t get too hung up on the volatility in crypto prices. When prices drop, you get an opportunity to buy in at a lower price, but we haven’t seen much of that opportunity in the last few months. Since November last year, the prices have been headed one way, and that’s up.”

The main advantage of rand cost averaging, if done at regular intervals such as the end of each month, is that it avoids having to time the market. The less attention paid to price under this strategy, the better.

Amplats sees green future for PGMs after 14% production slump in 2020

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

Fuel cell battery vehicles, driven by Chinese demand, will help drive demand for platinum group metals. From Moneyweb.

Buoyed by a weaker rand and strong prices, the group’s Ebitda margin was hoisted to a robust 55%. Image: Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters
Buoyed by a weaker rand and strong prices, the group’s Ebitda margin was hoisted to a robust 55%. Image: Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters

A 71% increase in the PGM (platinum group metal) basket price boosted Anglo Platinum’s earnings by 39% for the 2020 financial year.

This was despite the setbacks of the Covid lockdown which dropped PGM production by 14% to 3.8 million ounces (oz), and an explosion at a key converter plant which dropped refined production by 42% to 2.7 million oz. The first phase of the converter plant was restored to production in November last year, within budget and ahead of schedule.

Strong PGM prices and a weaker rand helped brush these setbacks aside, resulting in a 39% increase to R41.6 billion in Ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation).

PGM basket prices increased to R33 320 per ounce sold from R19 534 in 2019.

Read: Platinum surges to six-year high on industrial bounceback bets

Anglo Platinum reported a strong recovery in the second half of 2020, with own-mines production up 1% compared to the same period in 2019 (adjusting for the sections at Amandelbult that came to their end of mine life).

Converter plant stoppage, rebuild

Refining on behalf of third party contractors was seriously impacted by the stoppage at the converter plant.

Some R500 million was expended on restoring the first phase of the downed plant. The second phase unit is now undergoing its full rebuild, which is scheduled to be completed in the second half of 2021 at an estimated capital cost of R550-R600 million.

The interruption at the converter plant resulted in a build-up of work-in-progress inventory of around one million PGM ounces. It is expected that this inventory will be released by the end of 2022.


Demand for light vehicles dropped 14% last year but is now back to near normal levels, led by demand from China. Demand was further underpinned by a 5% increase in PGM per light vehicle manufactured.

Jewellery demand is weak, but recovering, while industrial and investment uptake held up surprisingly well in an otherwise trying year.

The long-awaited lift-off of the hydrogen economy is critical to the future of platinum mines, with 109 corporate members of the Hydrogen Council and nine new national hydrogen strategies announced – all aimed at reducing carbon output using hydrogen-based technologies.

A green future for PGMs

Signalling its commitment to green energy, Anglo Platinum CEO Natascha Viljoen says the group will pilot its first hydrogen fuel cell truck in the first half of 2021, leading eventually the replacement of all diesel-powered trucks at the Mogalakwena mine.

Also being considered is the use of hydrogen fuel cells as a source of energy for processing facilities across the group.

The building of a 75MW photovoltaic plant at Mogalakwena mine will reduce carbon emissions by up to 25%.

The plan is to scale this up substantially in the coming years to reduce dependence on the Eskom grid as well as scale back carbon emissions.

Costs per unit up 15%

The 14% drop in mining production had a flow-through effect on unit costs per PGM ounce, which increased by 15% to R11 739 (2019: R10 189). By the fourth quarter of 2020, all Anglo Platinum mines were operating at 100% of normal capacity.

Buoyed by a weaker rand and strong PGM prices, the group’s Ebitda margin was hoisted to a robust 55%, up from 43% the previous year.

Net sales revenue increased by 38% to R137.8 billion (2019: R99.6 billion), mainly due to an improvement in PGM prices and higher sales from trading activities. This more than offset the supply disruption to customers following the temporary closure of the converter plant.

Return on capital employed increased to 72% (2019: 58%), and the company’s net cash position improved to R18.7 billion (2019: R17.3 billion).

A final dividend of R35.35 per share, or R9.4 billion, was declared – based on a payout ratio of 40% of headline earnings.

Source: Anglo Platinum 2020 results presentation

All heavy trucks sold in China and India by 2023 will need platinum-based catalysers, though many manufacturers are implementing these targets ahead of time. Platinum loadings in Chinese trucks will be three times higher in 2023 than in 2019, with a similar trend emerging in India.

Source: Anglo Platinum 2020 results presentation

Looking to the future, Viljoen says by 2022 all operations will be mechanised or modernised with a view to improving safety and pushing the group into the lower half of competitors’ cost curve. New and safer technologies are being employed to improve safety, such as emulsion-based blasting and winch operations developed in-house to halt operations when workers get too close.

PGM production is expected to return to pre-Covid-19 levels of 4.2-4.6 million oz in 2021, while refined production is expected to reach 4.6-5 million oz. PGM sales volumes are forecast to be in line with refined production. Unit costs are expected to remain between R11 000 and R11 500 an ounce.

Total capital expenditure is expected to be R7-R7.5 billion, not counting capitalised waste-stripping expenditure of R2.8-R3.1 billion.

“The supply and demand for PGMs are both forecast to rise in 2021 compared to 2020,” says the group.

“This was always likely as both have already improved significantly since the first half of 2020, mainly owing to the world learning to live with Covid-19.

“The rollout of effective vaccines now suggests further upside, though how soon they bring the promise of ‘normality’ will vary by country and sector and, in some cases, ‘normality’ will be different than it was before the pandemic.

“We expect palladium and rhodium to remain in deficit this year. Platinum is forecast to be in a small surplus.”

Outrageous predictions for the future

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

Abundant energy at a fraction of today’s cost, using blockchains to weed out fake news, and an exodus from crowded cities. From Moneyweb.

Among the recommendations: to short monopoly tech companies and big city real estate investments, and going long companies in education, art, crafts and hobbies. Image: Shutterstock
Among the recommendations: to short monopoly tech companies and big city real estate investments, and going long companies in education, art, crafts and hobbies. Image: Shutterstock

Covid-19 has accelerated super-trends that were dimly visible through the fog of a cracked reality held together by easy money and the illusion that tomorrow will be more or less like today, only with more gadgets.

The idea that tomorrow will resemble today is clearly a dangerous and misguided view.

Covid-19 and the painful US election cycle have brought what might have seemed a distant future a quantum leap closer, accelerating nearly every underlying social and technological super-trend.

Financial services provider Saxo Group has released its 2021 Outrageous Predictions, and it should be required reading for anyone involved in future planning.

There are credible predictions that by 2030, two billion jobs will be lost to automation, artificial intelligence, globalisation and faulty economic systems.

Per capita incomes will rise, but so will inequality, forcing regulators to intervene with universal basic income programmes to ensure food and shelter for their populations.

Here’s a sampling of these outrageous predictions.

Time to short the ‘too powerful’?

Saxo’s fixed income strategist Althea Spinozzi argues it is time to short monopoly tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft which have become way too powerful and are coming under regulatory scrutiny from the US to Europe, not least for shifting profits to low-tax countries like Ireland.

In many ways they have become as powerful as nation states.

Consider that last year executives of Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet were even invited as speakers at the annual security conference in Munich, together with presidents and prime ministers.

Provocatively, Spinozzi argues that Amazon will redomicile its EU headquarters to Cyprus and “help” it rewrite its tax code to suit itself, but will get punished nonetheless as the US and other countries move against these monopolies and punish them for their hubris.

Banks and bankruptcies

Christopher Dembik, head of macro analysis at Saxo, believes Germany will bail out suffocatingly overgeared French banks, as client companies face a wave of bankruptcies due to “stop and go” lockdowns. French banks will be further pulverised by massive losses on state-guaranteed loans already hit by years of weak growth and a low interest rate environment.

Fake news

Anders Nysteen, senior quantitative analyst at Saxo, argues that falsified and manipulated content is taking over the internet, funnelling readers to extremist content which sews divisions.

“Tackling this trend, companies like Verizon and IBM are developing technologies to counter fake news with verification using a blockchain network,” he says.

“Companies like Twitter and Facebook invest heavily in this blockchain tech, motivated first and foremost by self-preservation as the threats of regulatory oversight we’ve seen in recent years become white hot.”

Fusion energy

One of the more intriguing predictions is the emergence of an entirely new energy future based around fusion, rather than renewables. Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo, says new alternative and green energy technologies are for the most part not the answer to our energy problems.

“The world urgently needs a disruption in energy technology,” he writes.

That disruption has appeared in the form of the Sparc fusion reactor design by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) with energy outputs boosted by artificial intelligence, “creating the biggest paradigm shift in energy technology since nuclear power”.

The mastery of fusion energy opens up the prospect of a world no longer held back by water and food scarcity, thanks to desalination and vertical farming (growing crops in vertical stacks). This will solve CO2 outputs and allow every country in the world to become food and energy independent.

Universal basic income

Kay Van-Petersen, global macro strategist at Saxo, argues that universal basic income (UBI) will be an essential part of the regulatory response to the decimation of jobs caused by AI and automation. Big cities have been the chief drivers of job growth for centuries, but the ability to work remotely coupled with high city crime rates and over-priced properties will trigger an exodus to smaller towns.

“The new UBI also drives changes in the attitude toward work and life balance, allowing many young people to stay in the communities where they grew up. Meanwhile, the professionals and the marginal workers in big cities also begin to leave, as job opportunities dry up and the quality of life in small, over-priced apartments in higher crime neighbourhoods loses its appeal,” says Van-Petersen.

His trade recommendation is to short big city real estate investments.

‘Citizen technology fund’

Market strategist Eleanor Creagh argues that a type of Citizen Technology Fund will be created that transfers a portion of capital asset ownership to everyone, allowing displaced workers to participate in the productivity gains of the digital era.

“The policy is spun as a Disruption Dividend, and goes a long way to relieving the economic and social anxieties for those who have been losing out on the share of economic output in recent years.”

This will unleash enormous entrepreneurial energy at the individual and community levels. More meaningful work in community restoration, artisanal crafts and food production will explode in popularity. Leisure-related sectors will likely boom as well, from hobbies to recreational sports and activities, real and virtual. She recommends going long companies in education, art, crafts and hobbies.


Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy, says a silver supply crunch is on the way in 2021 and sees the price hitting $50/oz this year.

Grim outlook for zombie companies

Spinozzi also argues that as Covid vaccines are rolled out and normalisation returns, economies that were vastly over-stimulated during the pandemic will result in overheated economies, inflation and unemployment. Rising interest rates will kill off over-geared zombie companies. “For the first time in economic history, a strong recovery sees rising defaults.”


Here’s a slither of good news for Africa: the discovery that emerging and frontier market growth rates have been woefully underestimated for years, in part due to productivity improvements brought about by the internet and mobile phone-based payment systems.

John Hardy, head of forex strategy at Saxo, advises going long emerging market currencies based on their superior growth outlook.

Australian group Macquarie Metals comes to rescue of Vantage Goldfields

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

An amended business rescue plan will see all creditors paid within three months. But a court action by a competing bidder may derail the best laid plans. From Moneyweb.

Image: Supplied

Five years after the collapse of a support pillar that took the lives of three workers at Vantage Goldfields’ Lily mine in Mpumalanga, there’s light at the end of the tunnel for the company. The 2016 tragedy brought an end to mining operations at Lily and its sister mine, Barbrook, which were then placed in business rescue.

The bodies of Solomon Nyirenda, Yvonne Mnisi and Pretty Nkambule remain buried a Lily mine, and the only way to recover them is to sink a new decline shaft 50 metres below the surface to recover the container in which they were working at the time of the collapse.

The recovery of the bodies has been a critical part of the business rescue plan for the mines. Attempts to revive the mines have been going on for the better part of five years, but have been thwarted by competing offers that have ended up in court.

This week, Vantage Goldfields’ business rescue practitioners (BRPs) accepted an offer to relaunch the shuttered Barbrook and Lily mines by Australian group Macquarie Metals, which last year acquired 98% of Vantage’s parent company, Vantage Goldfields Limited.

Vantage CEO Mike McChesney says the Australian parent will settle creditors, who are owed R212 million, and start with the sinking of a new decline shaft at Lily mine to retrieve the bodies of the deceased workers and revive underground operations at the mine.

“We expect creditors to be paid within the next 60 days and we are already in the process of gathering bank account information of employees who are ready and eager to restart work,” says McChesney.

“By July this year we will recommence operations at Lily and 12 months after that we expect to be recovering gold at Lily Mine. A decision will be taken to recommence operations at Barbrook Mine in short order. Initially we will re-employ roughly 400 to 500 workers, though we expect that to ramp up to 700 and possibly 1 000 over time.”

McChesney says the reboot of the mine has the full support of government, the community and the nearby towns of Louws Creek and Louisville, which were heavily dependent on income from the mines. Due to the shallow mining depths, Lily is a relatively low-cost mine with an average head grade of 2.5 grams per ton (g/t) while Barbrook’s grades vary between 3.5g/t and 4g/t.

The BRPs have amended the Vantage Goldfields business rescue plan to allow for the payment of 100% of the claims of secured, preferred and concurrent creditors, with 65% of their claims due in 15 days and the balance within 60 days.  Concurrent creditors in Makonjwaan Imperial Mining Company (which owns Lily) will receive 30c in the rand paid in two phases over the next 60 days.

Business rescue practitioner Rob Devereux of Qey-West Finance says the Macquarie Metals offer was one of two on the table, and far superior in terms of the benefits to creditors. “Macquarie Metals has the funds available, creditors are going to start getting paid in the next two weeks, and it is eager to start mining. This is a great success story, given the difficulties that Vantage Mining has experienced in the last five years.”

Bump in the road

One potential speed bump on the road is an “extremely urgent” application for an interdict to stop the BRPs proceeding with the business rescue plan, on the grounds that it was unilaterally and unlawfully amended – which is denied by the BRPs.

The application is being brought by competing bidder, Arqomanzi.

Says Devereux: “Arqomanzi wants to stop us paying the 800-plus staff who have been without pay for five years, and their offer was rejected because it proposes paying 60c in the rand to staff, while the Macquarie Metals offer will pay them 100c in the rand within the next 60 days.

“The courts must now decide the way forward. Our responsibility is to the company, and we believe we’ve acted in the best interests of all concerned.”

Bitcoin crashes through R700,000 – cheap at the price?

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

Does this mean the ship has sailed? Definitely not, according to this sample of experts. From Moneyweb.

Many are suggesting it won’t be long before bitcoin eclipses Apple as the world’s biggest company by market cap. Image: Shutterstock
Many are suggesting it won’t be long before bitcoin eclipses Apple as the world’s biggest company by market cap. Image: Shutterstock

Elon Musk’s announcement this week that Tesla had made a $1.5 billion (R22 billion) investment in bitcoin pushed the price to a new all-time high of $48 000 (R740 000).

The company also plans to start accepting payment in bitcoin for its cars.

Read:Bitcoin tops $48 000 for the first time after Tesla’s purchase

A brief history of Elon Musk’s devotion to the crypto cause

Bitcoin eased back to R680 000 after crashing through the R700 000 mark, a 36% jump in price in a little over two weeks.

Whether we are in bubble territory or not is a question that has been pushed to the side, as bitcoin’s price heads into unchartered territory.

It’s worth pointing out where bitcoin stands in the rankings of the world’s largest assets. This week it sailed past Tesla, Facebook and Alibaba in terms of market cap, and many are suggesting it won’t be long before it knocks Apple, the world’s biggest company by market cap, off its perch.

Source: Assetdash.com

A question readers are asking is whether it is too late to board this train, so it’s a question we put to crypto experts:

At R700 000, is bitcoin still a buy?

All respondents point out that none of their opinions constitute financial advice, and that cryptos are volatile investments that can expose you to risk.

Farzam Ehsani, CEO of crypto exchange VALR

Unlike equities or other asset classes where traditional valuation approaches – such as discounted cash flows, multiples or comparables – can be used, bitcoin and crypto are so new and different that traditional methods of valuation simply don’t apply. Bitcoin has no cash flows to discount, no revenue or profit to multiply and nothing else obvious to compare it to.

The closest asset class we can compare it to is gold, which is valued at $10 trillion to $12 trillion and many in the crypto space proclaim bitcoin to be ‘digital gold’. As such, if bitcoin hit parity with gold in terms of market cap, we’d be looking at a price per bitcoin of over $500 000 (more than R7 million).

The thing is that whenever something digital has replaced its analogue version, the digital version has always been much larger.

So is bitcoin cheap? In the long run I think it’s still incredibly cheap. But will there be a lot of volatility and can the price go down from here? Absolutely.

My personal price prediction [for bitcoin] is $500 000 [R7.3 million] by 2030, if not earlier.

Jason Carpenter, chief investment officer at crypto invest company Etherbridge

Bitcoin is still cheap at $45 000 (R680 000). Its total addressable market is north of $150 trillion. Its immediate addressable market is $11 trillion, [which is the] current size of the gold market. This potentially puts bitcoin at $350 000 (R5.2 million).

Our fundamental market cycle model which encompasses six different ‘on-chain’ indicators [using data from the Bitcoin blockchain] is at levels last seen in April 2017. From a fundamental perspective, all stakeholders are still far from being overheated.

The wave of sophisticated capital entering the space also serves as tailwinds for this cycle.

Josh Miltz, co-founder of crypto investment company BitFund

Of the 21 million bitcoin that will ever exist, 88.69% are in circulation. There are approximately 900 bitcoin per day that continue to enter the circulating supply through the mining reward, which means that (bitcoin) miners are receiving around $41.5 million (R614 million) a day in revenue.

There are consistently more than one million active bitcoin wallet addresses each day and the network saw more than $17 billion (R251 billion) in on-chain transaction volumes in the last 24 hours. That is an annualised transaction volume of over $6 trillion (R89 trillion), which is about half of Visa’s annual payment volume.

Some 60% of all wallets have not moved their bitcoin over the last 12 months. This includes hundreds of percent in appreciation and even one day where the bitcoin price dropped 50% in US dollar terms.

Simply put, bitcoiners are not selling their bitcoin.

Thus, it is arguable that if you are buying crypto and bitcoin for the long term, HODL (hold on for dear life). Then it is always a good time to consider buying bitcoin. However, if you’re simply trying to make some money, the high volatility may be risky.

Richard de Sousa, founder and CEO of crypto exchange AltCoinTrader

Bitcoin is certainly still cheap at the price. It’s heading towards R1 million and is on the verge of going parabolic. Cryptocurrencies are here to stay, and it’s gone mainstream. If you’re in the camp that thinks bitcoin is a scam or is not real, you are saying that your knowledge is better than the richest man in the world, and the top 500 businesses in the world. Elon Musk, arguably the richest man in the world, has just announced that Tesla has put $1.5 billion or 15% of the company’s cash reserves into bitcoin in the last few days.

Ethereum at about R27 000 is about to overtake gold, currently trading at R28 200 an ounce. Ethereum has problems: it’s too slow and doesn’t scale, and while this is true, it continues to hit all-time highs. I see Ethereum at R50 000 by the end of this year, which is double where it is now, though many people believe it will go much higher than this.

Michael Saylor of MicroStrategy [which has acquired more than 70 000 bitcoin using internal treasury funds] invited the top companies in the world to explain how to convert fiat money into cryptos. Bitcoin has been giving us returns of over 200% a year since inception, and in my opinion is the best investment ever. I agree with Saylor that the only time to sell bitcoin is when something better comes along, and I don’t see anything better on the horizon.

Jon Ovadia, founder and CEO of Ovex

Bitcoin is a difficult asset to value, however I do have strong conviction that the price now is significantly lower than it will be in five years’ time. Timing the market is very difficult and playing the long game is easy in my opinion.

In short, I think if you are buying on a five-year time frame, bitcoin is very cheap.

Whether it goes down from here is hard to say, but very possibly.

Of course there are those like ‘Dr Doom’ Nouriel Roubini who say bitcoin’s fundamental value is zero “and would be negative if a proper carbon tax was applied to its massive polluting energy-hogging production, I predict that the current bubble will eventually end in another bust”.

Roubini is professor of economics at the Stern School of Business at New York University, and has long been a critic of crypto currencies.

Why smaller cryptos are crushing bitcoin

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Uncategorized

A battle for the future of the world’s financial system is raging – and Ethereum, Cardano and Polkadot are in the ring. From Moneyweb.

The jury is still out, but Cardano could dislodge Ethereum as the platform of the new global financial system. Image: Akos Stiller, Bloomberg
The jury is still out, but Cardano could dislodge Ethereum as the platform of the new global financial system. Image: Akos Stiller, Bloomberg

Bitcoin hogged the headlines in the last week with its sprint past R700 000 on news that electric car company Tesla had invested $1.5 billion in the crypto, but a potentially more interesting story is playing out among three of the smaller cryptocurrencies – Ethereum, Cardano and Polkadot.

There is a battle playing out among the three over who gets to control what many perceive as the future global financial system – something known as ‘decentralised finance’ or DeFi.

Types of financial systems

A brief explainer here: the existing financial system is built around centralised control, such as banks, stock exchanges and insurers. These require intermediaries and brokers who add friction and costs to the system. These intermediaries squat in the middle of transactions for which they siphon off fees. And they’re often not quite as independent as they claim, so they end up selling you something you may not really need or want.

There are crypto exchanges where you can purchase cryptocurrencies (as well as digital silver, digital gold, stablecoins backed 1:1 with the rand, the US dollar and other currencies). These also have owners, and therefore fall under the heading of ‘centralised finance’.

Then there are the decentralised finance (DeFi) exchanges that have popped up in the last few years. They allow you to buy and sell cryptos without an intermediary, and often at better prices than on centralised exchanges.

You can also borrow, lend and earn interest – all without a go-between. Sending and receiving funds through DeFi is generally faster than in the traditional world of finance, and a loan can be taken out in minutes with no paperwork whatsoever.

With DeFi, the lender doesn’t even know your name.

To borrow on one of these exchanges, all you have to do is provide collateral in some recognisable form, such as bitcoin. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to ‘tokenise’ or convert highly illiquid assets such as property into digital assets and use that as collateral. And you’ll be able to own a fractional share of a highly desirable property, or a tiny piece of Apple equity. These are called ‘tokens’ rather than shares, and you will be able to buy and sell them on these DeFi platforms.

An option for the poor

The poor will also have easy access to this financial system.

Traditional financial providers and governments have promised to extend financial services to the poor, but the results are so far have been underwhelming. DeFi should be able to do that with greater efficiency and much lower costs.

For example, it has been estimated that the fees for cross-border remittances cost developing countries about 5% of GDP.

Crypto-based providers like Paxful have been able to slash those fees to 1% and less.

A new financial architecture

Competing to own this new DeFi space are software projects like Ethereum, Cardano and Polkadot. These are not ‘stores of value’ like bitcoin, but are platforms offering a new way of transacting without intermediaries. Each of these has its own cryptocurrency, so you can invest in them.

They are open-sourced projects, meaning any developer has access to the code, and they will eventually be interoperable with other financial ‘rails’ such as Visa and Mastercard.

Vitalik Buterin is the founder of Ethereum, and he set out to build a system that would allow transactions to take place between people anywhere in the world, with no need for trust or due diligence, and to settle those transactions instantly without need for an intermediary.

The idea of the ‘smart contract’ was born, where transactions are recorded on a giant decentralised ledger reposited (stored) on thousands of computers around the world rather than on a single centralised server, as with a bank.

This ledger is known as the Ethereum blockchain (the Ethereum cryptocurrency is called ether, or ETH).

Ethereum is a brilliant concept but suffers from bottlenecks and inefficiencies. The fees for using the system rise and fall depending on congestion on the network. The scalability of Ethereum has been a problem for some time, and developers hope the recent adoption of the Ethereum 2.0 upgrade will solve that.

Ethereum’s constraints have created opportunity

Those problems with Ethereum have opened up opportunities for Cardano and Polkadot, which do not suffer the same scalability issues.

Charles Hoskinson worked with Ethereum but left in 2014 and founded Cardano in 2015. He set out to build a system that improved on issues of speed and scalability faced by other cryptocurrencies.

In December last year a new phase of the project was launched allowing for the integration of smart contracts, with the addition of a multi-currency ledger being added to the blockchain.

This is of particular interest to corporations operating around the world.

Cardano (which goes by the code ADA) has been called the ‘Ethereum killer’ because of its ability to solve common business problems and scale without the kind of congestion problems facing Ethereum.

The jury is still out as to whether Cardano will dislodge Ethereum as the platform of the new global financial system.

Cardano in rands

Source: TradingView

Cardano has run from R2 to R13 in the last two months. You can earn interest of about 5% a year on your Cardano by ‘staking’ it (staking means putting your crypto to work in the blockchain and getting rewarded for it).

Ethereum in rands

Source: TradingView

Polkadot (DOT) was founded by Gavin Wood, who previously worked as a research scientist at Microsoft and co-founded Ethereum with Vitalik Buterin with the aim to make “one computer for the entire planet”.

Polkadot’s big advance over other blockchains, which operate in silos, was to create an internet of interoperable blockchains for a decentralised web. It aims to allow all blockchains to link and work together and offer smart contract functionality.

This is a huge benefit for developers as it allows them to develop apps that will work on all blockchains, not just one.

As Decrypt points out, the two issues blockchain-based systems most need to solve are scalability – the number of transactions per second the network can handle – and governance: how the community manages protocol upgrades and changes. Polkadot aims to solve both of these problems.

It was launched in May 2020, but has already risen to become the sixth largest cryptocurrency with a market cap of $26 billion – an extraordinary feat in a matter of just months.

Polkadot in USD

Source: CoinGecko

What the experts say

Richard da Sousa of AltCoinTrader says coins to watch in 2021 are ether, Cardano and Polkadot, for the reasons already given. “While bitcoin and Ethereum are breaking all-time highs in recent weeks, smaller coins such as Cardano have yet to do that.”

Jon Ovadia, CEO of crypto company Ovex, says two coins to look out for are FTT and SRM.

“Full disclosure: these are coins backed by one of our investors, FTX. Both of these coins are what are known as exchange coins and essentially give the holder rights to cashflows of the exchanges.

“The way this works is the exchange uses a portion of the fee income to buy back tokens from the open market on a regular basis. The most recent FTT burn was over $3 million. So I’d watch those coins very closely.”

Jason Carpenter of Etherbridge says Ethereum is definitely one to watch.

“Additionally investors could look at buying some of the blue chip DeFi infrastructure. Uniswap, Compound, Aave, Synthetix, Maker, Balancer. These networks are becoming core infrastructure of the Ethereum financial system.

“As these investments are incredibly volatile and in their infancy, caution must be paid to risks,” says Carpenter.

You can buy these on most decentralised exchanges, including Binance. Perhaps the best one-stop shop as a decentralised exchange is Uniswap, while Binance (which is a centralised exchange) offers access to most of these tokens.

“Investing in bitcoin, Ethereum and DeFi should be done so with small allocations and with a long term time horizon.”

Josh Miltz, co-founder of crypto company BitFund, says two coins on his radar are Polkadot and Filecoin.

“Polkadot is considered one of the most pioneering projects based on a multi-chain framework that can be a competitor. It aims at providing the most advanced peer-to-peer network for numerous blockchains. Over the past three months, Polkadot has gone from $3.70 a coin to $22.80 a coin, with a market capitalisation of over $20 billion.

“Filecoin is an open-source public cryptocurrency and digital payment system, is intended to be a blockchain-based cooperative digital storage and data retrieval method, and is another exciting cryptocurrency to look out for. The project was launched in August 2017 and raised over $200 million within 30 minutes.

“Filecoin aims to store data in a decentralised manner. Unlike cloud storage companies like Amazon Web Services or Cloudflare, which are prone to the problems of centralisation, Filecoin leverages its decentralised nature to protect the integrity of a data’s location, making it easily retrievable and hard to censor.”

MTI was by far 2020’s biggest investment scam – Chainalysis

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

Helped itself to R8.6bn worth of bitcoin belonging to its ‘investors’. From Moneyweb.

Chainalysis was able to analyse MTI’s cryptocurrency transaction history to learn more about the scam. Image: Dado Ruvic, Reuters
Chainalysis was able to analyse MTI’s cryptocurrency transaction history to learn more about the scam. Image: Dado Ruvic, Reuters

It’s official: Mirror Trading International (MTI) was the world’s biggest crypto scam of 2020, having roped in $588 million (R8.6 billion) worth of bitcoin across 470 000 transactions, according to the recently released 2021 Crypto Crime Report by Chainalysis.

The number of victims likely runs into hundreds of thousands, says the blockchain analysis company.

However, 2020 wasn’t quite as bad as 2019 for crypto scams: in 2019, Ponzi schemes took in nearly $7 billion worth of cryptocurrency, against just under $2.7 billion in 2020.

The biggest scam of 2019 was PlusToken, which sucked up $3 billion worth of cryptocurrency from millions of victims – most of them in Asia. Chinese authorities have since arrested 109 individuals associated with the scam and prosecuted six of the most prominent.

Badge of infamy

The dubious distinction for 2020 goes to MTI, SA’s own home-bred crypto scam which was “by far” the biggest in the world in 2020, says the report.

“The fact that the value of loss from crypto Ponzi schemes declined in 2020 suggests that “cryptocurrency users and the general public have grown more suspicious of such scams, or that potential Ponzi scheme operators have been scared off by the punishments doled out to the PlusToken operators,” says the report.

Most scams in 2020 were smaller in scale, and tended not to follow the typical Ponzi route of paying out fake proceeds to early investors.

Source: Chainalysis 2021 Crypto Crime Report

MTI, which was placed in provisional liquidation late last year, attracted tens of thousands of investors from around the world by offering returns of up to 10% a month.

FSCA investigating Mirror Trading International (Aug 2020)
Get-rich-quick scheme pulls a crowd, despite regulators calling time-out (Aug 2020)

“MTI presents itself as a passive income source. According to its website, users simply deposit a minimum of $100 worth of bitcoin, and MTI promises to grow it using an [artificial intelligence] AI-powered foreign exchange trading software,” says the report, which analyses web traffic to the company’s web site as well as transactions flows.

“The site indicates that customers can achieve consistent daily returns of 0.5%, which would translate to yearly gains of 500%,” it adds.

“Algorithmic trading is a common premise for many cryptocurrency investment scams.”

MTI had offices in Stellenbosch and Johannesburg. More than half its web traffic comes from South Africa, with a substantial portion of the balance coming from the US, UK, Canada and Mexico.

“We assume from this that most MTI victims hail from these countries in similar proportions as well. MTI has been actively receiving bitcoin from ‘customers’ since June 2018 and even has 150 employees listed on its LinkedIn company page.”


However, despite these airs of legitimacy, Google searches reveal that people have been rightly speculating that the company is a scam for most of its existence. In August 2020, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) issued a warning about MTI and urged investors to ask for their money back. There were almost multiple warnings about the scam in the press.

In December last year the FSCA filed charges against MTI after its investigation found that the company falsified trade statements, didn’t declare losses and committed other acts of fraud to deceive the market, says Chainalysis.

“The investigation also found that MTI had over 16 000 Bitcoin of claimed customer investment funds unaccounted for. MTI claimed to have transferred those funds to a new FX trading platform after its old platform banned MTI due to its scamming reputation, but the new platform says these funds were never deposited.

“Since those charges were filed, MTI customers have complained that they can no longer access or withdraw funds they’ve deposited to the platform, and MTI CEO Johann Steynberg has fled SA.”


Chainalysis was able to analyse MTI’s cryptocurrency transaction history to learn more about the scam.

“MTI Club has received $589 million worth of bitcoin across more than 470 000 transactions, primarily from exchanges, but also from self-hosted wallets. MTI has also sent and received significant funds to and from a popular, Bitcoin-friendly FX trading platform, as we show in the Reactor graph above,” according to the report.

“Perhaps most interesting is MTI Club’s apparent usage of a popular cryptocurrency gambling service as a money laundering and cash-out mechanism,” it says.

“The platform is the biggest risky destination of MTI funds by volume, having received $39 million worth of cryptocurrency from the scam in 2020.

“Cryptocurrency observer and venture capitalist Dovey Wan remarked that this is becoming a common money laundering technique for many cybercriminals who use cryptocurrency, as gambling platforms can be used similarly to mixers to obscure the origins and flows of illicitly-obtained funds.”

Source: Chainalysis 2021 Crypto Crime Report

The report shows scammers are disproportionately likely to send funds to gambling platforms rather than other services frequently used for money laundering.

Source: Chainalysis 2021 Crypto Crime Report

“Mirror Trading International is another example of why the industry must spread the word that algorithmic trading platforms promising unrealistically high returns are nearly always scams,” states the report.

“When cryptocurrency exchanges and other services learn of these scams and receive their cryptocurrency addresses, they should discourage users from sending funds to those addresses or at least warn them that financial losses are highly likely. In addition, exchanges, gambling platforms, and other services that these scams use to launder funds should consider blocking incoming transactions from businesses that relevant government bodies label as scams or potential scams, as removing the ability to convert funds to cash makes it more difficult for scams to operate.”

The Chainalysis report also warns of increasing scams involving decentralised finance (DeFi) platforms.

Source: Chainalysis 2021 Crypto Crime Report Tweet

Court ruling says mining group MRC is abusing court process

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

Australian mining group MRC and its CEO’s attempt to bring defamation suits against South Africans questioning its environmental and corporate practices, defeated. From Moneyweb.

Image: Shutterstock

In a ground-breaking ruling, Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath has set a high bar for anyone contemplating bringing a Slapp suit as a way of silencing criticism of corporate behaviour.

The ruling says corporations should not be allowed to weaponise our legal system against ordinary citizens and activists to intimidate and silence them.

Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (Slapp) suits are outlawed in many parts of the world on the grounds that they are intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics, by burdening them with the cost of a legal defence until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

In 2016, Australian mining group Mineral Commodities (MRC) and its CEO Mark Caruso started filing defamation suits against six South African lawyers and environmental activists over comments they made criticising the company’s environmental and corporate practices.

The judge agreed with the activists that MRC and Caruso were engaged in a Slapp suit and ruled they were abusing the court process in doing so.

“The right to freedom of expression, robust public debate and the ability to participate in public debates without fear is essential in any democratic society. I am accordingly satisfied that this action matches the DNA of a Slapp suit,” reads the judgment.

“Litigation that is not aimed at vindicating legitimate rights, but is part of a broad and purposeful strategy to intimidate, distract and silence public criticism, constitutes an improper use of the judicial process and is vexatious. The improper use and abuse of the judicial process interferes with due administration of justice and undermines fundamental notions of justice and the integrity of our judicial process. Slapp suits constitute an abuse of process, and is inconsistent with our constitutional values and scheme.”

SA’s lack of anti-Slapp legislation such as exists in other countries “renders civil society vulnerable when they embark on pursuing legal challenges and raising legal defences.”

Two attorneys at the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), Tracey Davies and Christine Reddell, and activist Davine Cloete, were accused of making defamatory statements about MRC’s subsidiary company Mineral Sands Resources (MSR) and its director Zamile Qunya during presentations at the University of Cape Town in 2017.

Prominent environmental lawyer Cormac Cullinan was sued over comments he made in a Cape Talk radio show suggesting the company had bought off traditional leaders as a way of pushing through the Xolobeni mineral sands project on the Wild Coast, against the wishes of most community members.

Social worker and journalist John GI Clarke had most to lose, with a defamation claim of R10 million, over an article in which he says he was misquoted as suggesting the company had been involved in the 2016 murder of Pondoland community activist Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe.

The arguments

In their defence, the defendants filed two special pleas: the first claimed that the case brought by Caruso and MRC was a Slapp suit and therefore an abuse of the court process; and the second claimed the company should have to demonstrate financial harm for its case to succeed.

MRC and Caruso filed exceptions (objections) to these pleas.

The court dismissed the first set of exceptions, effectively agreeing with the activists that the defamation cases are an abuse of the court process.

The second set of exceptions were upheld, meaning the court did not agree with the activists that the company must show financial harm for its defamation claim to succeed.

Cullinan says this part of the ruling was expected, because the High Court had to follow a binding Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgment. This ruling in the Cape High Court can now be appealed to the SCA.

“We want to appeal that part of the judgment that went against us so that it can be decided by the SCA and if the SCA agrees with Goliath J our legal system will have a framework for dealing with Slapp suits in the future. Once MRC and Caruso picked this fight, our primary objective was to ensure that they became an example that would discourage others from using Slapp suits. The spotlight will now be on them to show why the defamations cases they launched are not Slapp suits,” he says.

Says Clarke in response to the ruling: “It’s a huge relief. This judgment is akin to the release of a hostage. It’s said in warfare truth becomes the first casualty. In lawfare, truth becomes the prized hostage where the more powerful party uses legal procedure and arcane legal procedure to harm the truth.

“Going forward, so much more truth will be able to be shared and told, not just on the Xolobeni mining saga, but in other areas where powerful mining companies have tried to constrain the truth.”

Last year Australian press reported that Caruso is facing criminal charges of assault and aggravated home burglary. MRC issued a statement in October last year that Caruso had stepped down as chairman of the MRC board but would continue as CEO after “an alleged incident which occurred whilst Mr Caruso was assisting a friend in enforcing an abandonment order and a subsequent property seizure and delivery order at that friend’s premises.”

An abandonment order is when a tenant leaves a property before the end of the tenancy agreement without notifying the landlord or letting agent.

Quotes from the judgment:

Individuals or NGOs must have the freedom to respond to issues affecting society, such as those related to the environment and sustainable development.

The present matter arises in the context of debates about whether the mining companies have complied with their legal obligations and whether they have caused environmental damage. Matters such as this, self-evidently require public engagement and public debate.

The social and economic power of large trading corporations renders it critically important that they be open to public scrutiny without the inhibiting risk of crippling liability for defamation.

The mining companies are claiming inexplicably exorbitant amounts for damages, which the defendants can ill-afford. They instituted these proceedings fully aware of the fact that there is no realistic prospect of recovering the damages they seek.

However, it appears that the action is not aimed at obtaining monetary, or financial damages, but rather vindicating a right, or for some other purpose. The plaintiffs have indicated that in the alternative, they would be satisfied to dispose of the matter on the basis of a public apology. This is a signature mark of many Slapp suits.