SIBANYE-Stillwater confirmed an employee was shot dead on Monday (June 6) during an attack by “armed individuals” first reported by Daily Maverick which said the incident was the latest in west Johannesburg’s ongoing ‘zama-zama’ violence.
“The management and the board of Sibanye-Stillwater express their dismay about the brutal attack resulting in the loss of life of a colleague,” said Sibanye-Stillwater in a statement last night.
“The employee, an electrician, was part of a group that was in the process of repairing a transformer, which had been damaged by criminals, on Monday evening, 6 June 2022,” the company said. “The company is working with the SA Police service to investigate the incident and determine more details behind the attack.”
According Daily Maverick the electrical cables had been cut by illegal miners – known as zama-zamas – who had then planned to access the suspended Cooke gold operations which are situated on the West Rand.
The South African Police Service were called in to assist after shooting broke out but it largely stood by, partly owing to the heavily armed nature of the illegal miners, thought to be carrying “military-style” weapons, the publication said.
“There were about 150 armed assailants — it was planned and they had stashed supplies,” Daily Maverick quoted one source as saying.
Illegal mining is endemic in South Africa’s gold sector. In 2020, the Minerals Council South Africa estimated that seven tons of gold – from total national production of about 135 tons – is lost each year to illegal mining, which is driven by the joblessness and economic hardship that prevail across the country.
Daily Maverick said Sibanye-Stillwater had been trying for years to get closure certificates for the Cooke shafts from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, “but to no avail”. Properly closing them down, which would include flooding the tunnels, would presumably keep the Zamas at bay, the publication added.