RECORDED incidents of illegal mining on the premises of Sibanye-Stillwater’s South African operations nearly doubled in 2022, the precious metals miner said.
Citing Sibanye-Stillwater’s annual report published last week, BusinessLive said there were 363 incidents of illegal mining at the company’s mines in 2022 resulting in 1,115 arrests. This compares to 187 incidents and 473 arrests during the firm’s 2021 financial year.
Sibanye charged 200 employees, including contractors, for aiding and abetting illegal miners in 2022 down from 239 in 2021, said BusinessLive.
“It seems to be getting worse, and to protect our operations we are compelled to consider all legal measures available to stop the scourge,” James Wellsted, spokesman for Sibanye-Stillwater told the publication.
BusinessLive said South Africa’s criminal justice system was ill-equipped to prosecute those responsible. Illegal miners were generally only charged with trespassing and required to pay a R300 admission-of-guilt fine.
“Reported incidents of illegal mining are reduced by the bribery, or coercion, of employees, contractors and officials in an effort to have them turn a blind eye to illicit activity in return for the equivalent of up to four months’ salary in cash,” said Sibanye-Stillwater.
The criminality and a “wanton disrespect’ of property rights was being driven by escalating sociopolitical instability. “Illegal mining, and the inability of the authorities to prevent it, is one of the most pernicious manifestations of this,” Sibanye-Stillwater said.
It said that with public security services stretched to contain surging levels of crime, the company needs to take extra steps to ensure the safety of its employees and assets.
Ultimately, shareholders bore the cost of these conditions.
Said Sibanye-Stillwater: “These factors not only impede productivity but also impose an additional cost burden to support operating continuity”.
BusinessLive said illegal mining, particularly at its gold operations, posed a major risk to the sustainability and safety of its operations as a result of attacks on employees and security personnel and damage and theft of property.
“Employee safety is threatened through being offered financial inducements to assist illegal miners, or directly threatened and forced into doing so,” said the company.
Indirect threats to employees from illegal mining were an increased risk of toxic fumes as a result of illegal miners burning cables underground to remove plastic casing, and the threat of electricity or communication disruptions due to illegal theft of copper cable.
There are also direct threats to staff. In June last year an electrician was shot dead at the Cooke 4 mine, southwest of Johannesburg, during a shoot-out between mine security and an armed gang of 150 zama zamas, said BusinessLive.