24 July 2023 in Dossier Laboratory South Africa, Industry


The African mining world, and not only that, is hell. But it is not very well known. There are names, like those of the South Africans of Gemfields, which are unknown to the general public, and yet they have a century of history and are number one in the world production of rubies. The owners are Italian, and no one really knows this: a family that left Campania on the back of a donkey a hundred years ago, and is now one of the richest and most powerful clans on the planet.

Here is the Gemfields’ main mine: the cover photo shows a group of Mozambican boys during a normal working day at Nthoro, in the Namanhumbir[1] , a mine managed by the Gemfields group[2] . These boys are deprived of any kind of protection – as recommended by the International Labour Organisation since 1995[3] in the Convention on Safety and Health in Mines[4] – something of which these boys, it is understood, know nothing[5] . Mozambique has been in the UN since 1996[6] and 28 years later, in spite of the commitments made, the number of accidents, incidents of organised violence and the resulting victims recorded in the Cabo Delgado region[7] , in the vicinity of the world’s largest mines, are disturbing[8] .

Beheadings, displaced persons, destroyed property and murders committed by Islamic rebels wearing the uniforms of the Armed Defence Forces of Mozambique (FADM)[9] , who are fighting with arms to win, in the absence of the state, the right to exploit the mines and enrich themselves[10] . In episodes of violence such as the one on 13 June 2022, in the village of Mauja[11] and in October last year in the district of Montepuez, a few kilometres from Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM[12] ), it is the civilians living and working in the areas adjacent to the road leading to the mine who pay the consequences[13] .

Brutal attacks that are repeated in an area where the Gemrock mine is also located[14] , often forcing the two mines to suspend operations, evacuate the site and request military intervention[15] . MRM (the acronym of the Montepuez mine controlled by Gemfields[16] ) has a contract with the private security company Arkhe Risk Solutions, a company of the Omega Risk Solutions group[17] , created by the South African businessman Sandile Majani[18] , murdered in December 2011[19] . Since then, Omega Risk, whose shareholders are concealed by a pyramid of offshore companies, the centre of which is in Niue[20] , has been led by Faan Du Toit[21] (one of the heads of the South African intelligence services at the time of apartheid[22] ), and his other associates from the years of segregationism.

This is a company with extremely sensitive customers, such as North Korea[23] , which was then involved in a coup attempt in the Democratic Republic of Congo[24] , and which, in recent months, has been expanding very successfully throughout Africa[25] (especially in Angola[26] ) due to its efficiency and ferocity. Despite the violence employed by Arkhe Risk, MRM continues to receive military reinforcements from the state[27] . The mine is manned by a government agency, the National Resources Protection Force, consisting of 35 agents who patrol the mine with firearms – unacceptable, according to the chief prosecutor of Montepuez, Pompilio Xavier Wazamguia: ‘I don’t know why, but we have the state security forces protecting the mine. From my point of view, it should be up to the company to create its own security programme to protect the mine’[28] .

Reception centre in Namuapala[29]

These militias defending the mining companies and their foreign technicians[30] , certainly do not contribute to the security of the inhabitants of the area, who are forced to flee from their destroyed village to the next one, where they run into the state police who, in the absence of a ‘guide de marcha’, forbid them to move around and find refuge[31] in the far from safe government installations[32] . And when the desperate people are blocked at the entrance of a new village on the charge of violating the curfew[33] , they are forced to turn back into the arms of terrorists[34] .

In the Cabo Delgado region, there is talk of more than 600 women slaves being trafficked by Islamic rebels (as reported by Human Right Works): the women are abducted during raids on their villages and then disappear[35] . It is now clear that the rebel militias have well-defended bases and voluminous arsenals of war at their disposal, which allow them to easily carry out criminal activities and pocket the considerable proceeds. On 19 October 2022, the regular Mozambican army seized a massive amount of arms and ammunition in the district of Mocímboa da Praia[36] , a fact that certifies the presence, close to the airports, of a rebel military enclave active in the illegal trade of looted treasures from more remote areas such as the district of Montepuez[37] .

The tentacles of the Gemfields Group

Montepuez Ruby Mining Property Structure[38]

The militias profess radical Islam, because it is the only way out for the victims of Christian neo-colonialism – i.e. of those who subsidise dictatorships and treat mining employees as slaves[39] . For those who do not become militiamen, there is only one choice: to work illegally in areas bordering the mining concessions, in the hope of finding gems that can be sold on the black market[40] , running away from the security forces of the mines and the military who defend the mining sites[41] . In a sentence: either you join Al-Shabaab and kill your compatriots[42] ; or you are the employee of a multinational company that has been exploiting your country’s resources for more than 200 years[43] . The alternative is to be a smuggled miner, barefoot, without food or water, terrified of being shot, robbed or dying buried alive under the collapse of some shaft[44] .

Someone in 2018 wants to change that: the London law firm Leigh Day is arguing in the High Court in London[45] , 273 complaints held up by different videos[46] spread on the web, speak of serious unjustified violence directed at civilians at the hands of mine security and the police, in conjunction with murders and villages displaced to make way for excavations. Attempt at justice culminating in an approximately $7.5 million settlement to reimburse the injured party[47] . Gemfields buries the facts with money, continues to declare itself not responsible for human rights violations, acknowledges the existence of a very extensive black market[48] and promises to be closer to the local population in the future, creating new jobs and accepting subsequent complaints similar to the previous ones .[49]

Montepuez Ruby Mining Limited (MRM) alone produces more than a third of the world’s rubies[50] . The deposit, located in the province of Cabo Delgado and covering an area of almost 34,000 hectares, was discovered in 2009 by farmer Selemane Assane , who immediately realised that he had in front of him the largest ruby mine that had ever existed[51] . Assane went to Cabo Delgado to obtain a concession, but only got beatings, threats and an eight-year prison sentence – without having committed any crime[52] .

The exploitation right is assigned to MRM – whose Board of Directors is chaired by Samora Machel Jr, son of Mozambique’s first president[53] – a company owned by a subsidiary of the British multinational group Pallinghurst in a partnership with Gemfields Group Ltd. of St. Peter Port and Mwiriti Ltda of Cabo Delgado (Mozambique)[54] . The former company holds 75% of the shares, the Mozambican company the remaining 25%[55] . The same division of shares applies to all Gemfields’ mines: Kagem Emerald Mine in Zambia[56] , Sedibelo Resources in South Africa[57] and Nairoto Resources Ltda. in Mozambique[58] .

40% of Mwriti belongs to the Iranian businessman Asghar Fakhraleali, about whom not much is known, who lives in Mozambique[59] , while 60%[60] belongs to a Mozambican general and former governor of Cabo Delgado province, Raimundo Domingues Pachinuapa, who became very powerful during the years of the struggle for independence by leading the troops of the FRELIMO liberation movement[61] and is today, together with his son Raime Raimundo, the head of an important political clan and one of the country’s main mine owners[62] .

Companies in which Gemfields holds interests (31 December 2019)[63]

It was General Pachinuapa who appropriated the deposit discovered by Selemane Assane in 2009, taking advantage of his position of power over a poor illiterate farmer with no possibility of defence: a theft, according to the local organisation Namanhumbir Management Community Committee[64] . Pallinghurst, on the other hand, is a fully listed company, but is 26% controlled by the South African industrial group Assore[65] , which also bought 5% of Gemfields[66] in 2021. Pallinghurst’s most important asset is the famous Russian jeweller Fabergé[67] – creator of the famous Easter eggs for the Tsar[68] , and still creator of jewellery that is a mark of distinction and wealth for anyone successful[69] .

Gemfields owns 75 per cent of Web Gemstone Mining plc (WGM), an emerald mine in southern Ethiopia[70] . In June 2018, that area was attacked by an armed mob of around 500 people, according to Gemfields, resulting in the injury of two people. The following 31 July, the gemstone sorting depot is looted, the safe emptied of all valuables, tools and equipment stolen and others destroyed; along with the depot, the residential camp is also looted[71] . According to Gemfields, the assaults were successful because the police could not cope with such a large number of assailants[72] . WGM is forced to suspend its activities and, to date, there is no news of a full resumption of operations[73] .

Gemfields also controls Oriental Mining Sarl, which holds exploration licences of various kinds in Madagascar, including emeralds, rubies and sapphires – another company that has been closed for years[74] . Lynda Lawson, in her report ‘A rough cut trade’, links Gemfields’ lack of official activity with smuggling[75] . Kagem, in Zambia, is the largest open-pit mine of coloured gemstones in the world[76] . Kagem has a recently extended licena until 2055[77] , despite the fact that in August 2018 the company was raided by the Zambia Revenue Authority, following an investigation for tax evasion[78] . In the following December, the Authority exonerated Kagem[79] . After an operational halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Kagem resumed operations in April 2021[80] .

But who controls Gemfields? About 35% of the shares of GML Gemfields Group Ltd, listed on the stock exchange, is in the hands of investment funds and has no influence on the day-to-day running of the company[81] – except for the largest minority shareholder (26%) which, in accordance with the 35% of shareholders on the stock exchange, is the real heart and brain of GML[82] : the South African group Assore International, represented on the board by Patrick Eugenio Sacco[83] , the new head of a clan founded in 1928[84] by his grandfather Guido, an emigrant from Italy[85] .

The Sacco family leads together with some of the powerful families of the apartheid years, some influential ANC men, and several Zulus who have made money and careers through the Black Economic Empowerment policy[86] – Nelson Mandela’s strategy of forcing companies to sell up to a quarter of their capital at special prices to small African business entities and tribal associations[87] . The original idea was that, in this way, tribal communities and Zulu and Bantu village associations could buy a small slice of wealth and use it to grow. What has happened is that the smarter and better educated blacks have hoarded these shares and not made them available to the community[88] .

This mix allows many mining multinationals (such as Gemfields) to have important entanglements in both the black community and the white community, and still have a powerful filter between the demands of the population and the most influential part of the ANC. and Patrick Sacco sits on the board of directors of many mining companies scattered across the continent[89] . After the Sacco family had been investing in precious metals (gold, silver, diamonds, rubies) for decades, today the Saccos have also entered the market for rare earths and lithium[90] .

Guido and Desmond Sacco, father and son, creators of the Assore Group[91]

No one knows who its partners are, as the family has a foundation to maintain opacity about its assets (Assore Treasury Company (RF) (Pty.) Ltd. Johannesburg[92] ) and a series of holding companies scattered between London, Mauritius and several African countries, whose minority partners have never been declared to the public[93] . As a result, the Mozambican tax coffers profit very little from the mining business, hidden in offshore corporate networks[94] or, more simply, evaded[95] , perhaps through auctions on the international black market, such as that of Singapore[96] .

Another part of the rubies is sold, despite the controls imposed by the UK Serious Fraud Office[97] , through the personal sales of Pallinghurst managers[98] , such as Brian Gilbertson, Arne H. Frandsen and Andrew Willis[99] . Gilbertson, in 2007, the year Pallinghurst bought Fabergé, was sued by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch owner of the giant BHP Billiton, for breach of contractual agreements on Fabergé[100] . The strategy of buying jewellery from their mines almost free of charge and then reselling it at a high price after having it refined in Antwerp had been employed by the Sacco family since a century ago[101] .

The life of the founder, Guido, is legendary: his father, who has a small nest egg to defend against the world economic crisis, sends him to South Africa, where there is a deep crisis in the mining sector. He travels around the country with two donkeys and a bag, and for little money acquires the rights to the manganese mines closed due to the crisis, and discovers new ones[102] . When, in 1932, the industrial boom in Germany, France and the United Kingdom caused the steel market to increase tenfold, the manganese mines (a fundamental substance for the production of heavy industry) started to march again at an unprecedented pace, enriching the Saccos in less than a decade[103] .

The diversification of the group with the purchase also of gem and ruby mines arrived in the 1960s, when the Assore group was already one of the most powerful mining groups in the world, and Desmond, Guido’s son, this time in a jeep and without a donkey, began to tour Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique[104] , after having had a carefree youth during the apartheid years, playing for the South African national hockey team[105] . But the Saccos are not racists, quite the contrary: when the secret negotiations between the white elite and the ANC began in the late 1980s, Desmond Sacco chose a local partner with whom to share the first major mining investments in the north of the country: Cyril Rampahosa, now (at the same time) president of South Africa and of the ANC and the nation’s richest man[106] . A connection that does not prevent a history of incidents, protests, violence, starting with the poisoning of ten workers at the Assore mines in Durban (KwaZulu-Natal), which went unpunished[107] .

The Gemfields example is that of the ominous results generated by the failure of black emancipation movements in Africa, whether it is the independence uprisings, or the end of apartheid. As in George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, in the end there is no longer a distinction between old and new oppressors, and even the family of an adventurous young man with his donkey becomes an epic of white repression of the wealth of the Dark Continent.


[1] https://www.zammagazine.com/investigations/1513-mozambique-the-squandered-taxes-of-montepuez

[2] https://blogs.cuit.columbia.edu/rightsviews/2019/01/20/gemfieldss-quest-for-conflict-rubies-in-nthoro-mozambique/

[3] https://www.ilo.org/global/lang–en/index.htm

[4] https://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_ILO_CODE:C176

[5] https://unric.org/it/gli-stati-membri-delle-nazioni-unite/

[6] https://unric.org/it/gli-stati-membri-delle-nazioni-unite/

[7] https://www.caboligado.com/portugues/cabo-ligado-17-23-outubro-2022

[8] https://www.caboligado.com/portugues/cabo-ligado-17-23-outubro-2022

[9] https://www.caboligado.com/portugues/cabo-ligado-17-23-outubro-2022

[10] https://www.caboligado.com/portugues/cabo-ligado-17-23-outubro-2022

[11] https://www.miningweekly.com/article/gemfields-has-its-eye-on-security-measures-following-cabo-delgado-attacks-2023-02-21

[12] https://www.gemfieldsgroup.com/assets/montepuez-ruby-mining-limitada/

[13] https://www.caboligado.com/portugues/cabo-ligado-27-junho-3-julho-2022

[14] https://www.zitamar.com/insurgent-violence-brings-montepuez-ruby-mining-to-a-halt/

[15] https://www.miningweekly.com/article/gemfields-has-its-eye-on-security-measures-following-cabo-delgado-attacks-2023-02-21

[16] https://www.gemfieldsgroup.com/assets/montepuez-ruby-mining-limitada/

[17] https://earthjournalism.net/stories/the-deadly-rubies-of-mozambiques-montepuez

[18] City tender deemed dodgy by auditors (timeslive.co.za)

[19] https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/gauteng/sandile-majali-found-dead-report-1005250 ; https://www.news24.com/news24/girlfriend-finds-sandile-malajis-body-in-hotel-room-20101226

[20] Omega International Associates LP London

[21] https://www.omegasol.com/about-us/

[22] Seamus Martin, ‘Trouble brews behind picturesque streets’, The Irish Times, 15 February 1994

[23] SitRep: Trump Talks Nuke Carrier Locations; Former CIA Boss Lays Out Elex Worries; Nikki Haley’s Foreign Policy – Foreign Policy

[24] Xinhua General News Service, “19 South Africans arrested in Congo for alleged coup plot”, 24 May 2006; South Africa: Congo ‘Coup’ Furore Ensnares SA Firm – allAfrica.com

[25] https://www.omegasol.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Integritas-Issue-Sep-22-2.pdf

[26] Entry of new oil companies into Angola’s oil market. – Free Online Library (thefreelibrary.com)

[27] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/7/20/gemfields-reports-attack-near-mozambique-ruby-mine

[28] https://earthjournalism.net/stories/the-deadly-rubies-of-mozambiques-montepuez

[29] https://macua.blogs.com/files/savana_1379-12.06.2020.pdf

[30] https://www.miningweekly.com/article/gemfields-has-its-eye-on-security-measures-following-cabo-delgado-attacks-2023-02-21

[31] https://www.caboligado.com/portugues/cabo-ligado-27-junho-3-julho-2022

[32] https://macua.blogs.com/files/savana_1379-12.06.2020.pdf

[33] https://www.caboligado.com/portugues/cabo-ligado-27-junho-3-julho-2022

[34] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jV0yvKbYUk&t=38s

[35] https://www.avvenire.it/mondo/pagine/mozambico-ricchezze-e-jihad-cosi-siamo-fuggiti-alla-morte

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[45] https://www.leighday.co.uk/news/news/2018-news/faberge-owners-face-london-high-court-battle-over-alleged-human-rights-abuses/

[46] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFu8MWVPf5k&embeds_referring_euri=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.leighday.co.uk%2F&source_ve_path=MjM4NTE&feature=emb_title

[47] https://portocanal.sapo.pt/noticia/202421 ; https://www.leighday.co.uk/news/news/2019-news/statement-by-leigh-day-in-relation-to-the-settlement-of-the-human-rights-claims-against-gemfields-ltd/

[48] https://www.business-humanrights.org/en/latest-news/statement-by-leigh-day-in-relation-to-the-settlement-of-the-human-rights-claims-against-gemfields-ltd/

[49] https://www.news24.com/fin24/Companies/Mining/gemfields-settles-r104m-mozambican-claim-denies-liability-20190129

[50] https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/03/the-blood-rubies-of-montepuez-mozambique-gemfields-illegal-mining/

[51] https://cjimoz.org/news/the-business-interests-of-general-raimundo-pachinuapa/

[52] https://cjimoz.org/news/the-saga-of-selemane-assane-ruby-minings-forefather/

[53] https://earthjournalism.net/stories/the-deadly-rubies-of-mozambiques-montepuez

[54] https://www.mwiriti.com/

[55] https://www.linkedin.com/company/gemfields-group/?originalSubdomain=uk

[56] https://gemfields.com/about/our-mines-and-brands/kagem-emerald-mine/

[57] https://sedibeloresources.com/

[58] https://www.gemfieldsgroup.com/assets/nairoto-resources-limitada-gold/

[59] https://mg.co.za/africa/2021-09-04-cabo-delgado-is-a-warzone-but-profiteers-strike-it-rich/ ; https://www.cipmoz.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Mining-Concession.pdf

[60] https://www.cipmoz.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Mining-Concession.pdf

[61] https://cjimoz.org/news/the-business-interests-of-general-raimundo-pachinuapa/

[62] https://www.africaintelligence.com/southern-africa-and-islands/2017/03/21/gemfields-associate-pachinuapa-eyes-up-tourmaline-in-ligohna,108226722-art ; https://www.africaintelligence.com/southern-africa-and-islands/2018/10/30/pachinuapa-s-buddy-gets-back-into-distribution-game,108330057-bre

[63] https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/business-radar-reports-storage/436eace7-bf80-4b5f-9186-f87f4d5f9a28.pdf

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[65] https://it.marketscreener.com/quotazioni/azione/PALLINGHURST-RESOURCES-LT-16023288/azienda/

[66] https://www.miningmx.com/news/platinum/47401-is-assore-planning-a-move-into-pgms-with-5-beachhead-in-gemfields/

[67] https://www.faberge.com/

[68] https://www.vanillamagazine.it/uova-faberge-la-storia-degli-inestimabili-gioielli-realizzati-per-gli-zar-russi/

[69] https://cipmoz.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Nota-de-Imprensa-MRM-english.pdf

[70] https://www.annualreports.com/HostedData/AnnualReportArchive/g/LSE_GEM_2020.pdf

[71] https://www.capitalethiopia.com/2018/08/06/seventeen-charged-destruction-borena-zone-mine/

[72] https://www.mining.com/gemfields-operation-ethiopia-siege-armed-groups/

[73] https://www.annualreports.com/HostedData/AnnualReportArchive/g/LSE_GEM_2020.pdf

[74] https://www.annualreports.com/HostedData/AnnualReportArchive/g/LSE_GEM_2020.pdf

[75] https://www.readkong.com/page/a-rough-cut-trade-africa-s-coloured-gemstone-flows-to-2813701

[76] https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA219077097&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=00264628&p=AONE&sw=w&userGroupName=anon%7E8c081c4f&aty=open+web+entry

[77] https://www.zccm-ih.com.zm/2020/03/20/gemfields-incorporates-all-its-gemstone-licences-into-kagem-mining-ltd/

[78] https://nationaljeweler.com/articles/6259-zambian-tax-authority-raids-gemfields-emerald-mine

[79] https://nationaljeweler.com/articles/6267-gemfields-kagem-cleared-by-zambian-tax-authority

[80] https://www.miningreview.com/diamonds-gemstones/kagem-to-reopen-operations-at-lufwanyama-emerald-mine/

[81] https://simplywall.st/stocks/za/materials/jse-gml/gemfields-group-shares/news/institutional-investors-have-a-lot-riding-on-gemfields-group

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[83] https://www.gemfieldsgroup.com/board-of-directors/

[84] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00357529.2012.708615?journalCode=vram20#.U1eS-FdBYpQ ; https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/business/2010-12-04-the-billionaires-are-back/

[85] https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/business/2010-12-04-the-billionaires-are-back/ ; https://www.forbes.com/profile/desmond-sacco/?sh=3e3140fd17fa

[86] https://www.globalcompliancenews.com/2023/05/26/https-insightplus-bakermckenzie-com-bm-mergers-acquisitions_5-south-africa-broad-based-black-economic-empowerment-guide-2023_05232023/

[87] https://www.edisongroup.com/research/a-new-strategic-shareholder/29996/

[88] https://mg.co.za/article/2018-08-31-00-has-bee-been-a-dismal-failure/ ; https://www.standrewslawreview.com/post/why-is-black-economic-empowerment-failing-to-reconcile-social-inequality-in-south-africa ; https://www.cips.org/supply-management/news/2022/august/black-empowerment-procurement-rules-failing-due-to-lack-of-penalities/

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[90] https://www.londonstockexchange.com/news-article/ALL/change-in-ultimate-beneficial-holder-of-shares/15177253 ; https://finance.yahoo.com/news/atlantic-lithium-limiteds-lon-last-085040833.html

[91] https://www.mindat.org/photo-1277909.html

[92] Assore Treasury Company (RF) (Pty.) Ltd. Johannesburg on Nexis

[93] Assore Treasury Company (RF) (Pty.) Ltd. Johannesburg on Nexis

[94] https://www.cipmoz.org/pt/2018/05/20/ruby-exploration-by-montepuez-ruby-mining-a-huge-business-with-hardly-any-linkages-to-mozambiques-development/

[95] https://cipmoz.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Montepuez-Ruby-Mining-english.pdf

[96] https://www.cipmoz.org/pt/2018/06/15/leilao-de-rubis-mocambicanos-atinge-recorde-em-singapura/ ; https://cipmoz.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Montepuez-Ruby-Mining-english.pdf

[97] https://www.sfo.gov.uk/

[98] https://cipmoz.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Nota-de-Imprensa-MRM-english.pdf

[99] https://www.bsx.com/news_articles.php?ArticleID=1100797664

[100] http://edition.cnn.com/2002/BUSINESS/asia/05/02/aust.bhp.biz/

[101] Bruce Cairncross, ‘The Onhanja mining district: Namibia’s famous mineral localities’, ASAPII, 1 March 1996

[102] Claran Ryan, ‘Soaring to new heights’, Sunday Times South Africa, 10 November 2002

[103] Claran Ryan, ‘Soaring to new heights’, Sunday Times South Africa, 10 November 2002

[104] Bruce Cairncross, ‘Famous mineral localities: The Erongo Mountains Namibia’, The Mineralogical Record, 1 September 2006

[105] https://www.forbes.com/sites/calebmelby/2012/11/02/amid-industry-chaos-south-african-mining-magnate-desmond-sacco-joins-billionaire-ranks/?sh=7e6b57776bba

[106] https://www.forbes.com/sites/calebmelby/2012/11/02/amid-industry-chaos-south-african-mining-magnate-desmond-sacco-joins-billionaire-ranks/?sh=7e6b57776bba

[107] Bongani Mthethwa and Taschica Pillay, ‘Six years of waiting’, Sunday Times South Africa, 9 September 2012

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