Illegal mining spiraling out of control says Chamber of Mines

Illegal gold mining – which is already worth an estimated R6bn annually – is spiraling out of control and the authorities need a co-ordinated plan to deal with it according to Christo de Klerk, CEO of Mines Rescue Services (MRS).

MRS – which is a volunteer organisation linked to the Chamber of Mines – undertakes the grisly work of recovering the bodies of dead illegal miners from the horrendously unsafe situations underground where they were killed.

The unit has made headlines over the past year on several occasions while recovering dead illegal miners with the latest incident being at Langlaagte on the West Rand in August but De Klerk commented the bodies found were “the tip of the iceberg – maybe 10% of the number that have died down there.”

He said the number of illegals underground was huge and commented, “they come and go past us continually in the workings while we are down there recovering the bodies.”

He added illegal mining was becoming increasingly violent with gun fights taking place between various factions. He said MRS on one occasion had found and recovered the bodies of 10 illegals who had been shot dead underground.

De Klerk said 70% of all arrested illegal miners were also illegal immigrants coming mainly from three countries – Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe – so the first requirement was to improve security on South Africa’s “porous” borders.

He added the legal system for dealing with illegal miners had to be overhauled using prosecutors who were aware of the dangers involved while drastically increased penalties needed to be slapped on convicted illegal miners.

“ On one occasion we had rescued illegal miners who were taken to hospital and then court where they paid a R50 admission of guilt fine and were set free. They were back underground again before we had finished rescuing the remaining trapped illegals from the incident involved,” he said.

De Klerk said the syndicates on surface buying the illegally mined gold also had to be infiltrated and shut down.

Asked what the Chamber of Mines was doing to stop illegal mining on operating mines – such as Petra Diamond’s Kimberley surface operations which had been invaded by more than 1,000 illegals – president Mike Teke commented, “the Chamber is co-operating and working with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and the South African Police Services (SAPS).”

But, according to Petra executives, not enough is being done by the DMR and the SAPS in Kimberley to deal with the growing problem despite complaints and charges lodged over the past year.

Asked whether he thought the “political will” existed in government to tackle the problem Teke referred the question to Chamber security co-ordinator Neil Metzer who said the issue of illegal mining had been taken up at the highest levels of the country’s security structures.

De Klerk’s presentation included photographic evidence of the incredible risks that determined illegal miners were prepared to take to get into underground mining areas that had been closed off when the mines were shut down.

He ran film sequences taken by a special camera lowered into a vertical shaft showing illegals with no safety gear at all climbing and sliding by hand down the shaft steel work at depths of 500 metres.

Another film clip showed a rope ladder extending hundreds of metres down a 1.7 kilometre deep shaft at a Free State gold mine.

According to De Klerk “ the rope ladder apparently snapped with nine illegals on it and they plunged to the bottom of the shaft. That trapped another 22 miners in an adjacent shaft where they were operating because they now could not get out of the mine.”

Asked how much money the illegals were making De Klerk replied, “that depends on the grade of the ore they are mining. It could vary from R300 to R5,000 a month but it’s clearly lucrative enough for them to risk their lives like this.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. It was widely known in the FS goldfields that the saps are NOT prepared to act against the zamas – even when citizens lives and property are at risk. It is known that the saps are not prepared to ” protect and serve ” as per their constitutional mandate ( fear and cowardice rule ) . The Vista sometimes reports on activities of the zamas plus the extensive network in place to support them but the zamas do as they please. It also known that the zamas/ syndicates / gangs are protected by the new political hierachy in SA.

  2. Allow Licensed Refineries to purchase Gold directly from the “illegal” miner to disable the illegal Financial Force funding this. Then return to the Artisanal Miner, train and licence (regulate). Compatible to the sequence of events during the Moonshine Era in the USA.

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