HOT SPOT

DIS­USED SECUNDA GOLD MINES BE­COME ZAMA ZAMA Il­le­gal min­ing con­tin­ues apace and stake­hold­ers should con­sider so­lu­tions to pre­vent the neg­a­tive im­pacts of this des­per­ate ac­tiv­ity

CityPress - - Business - SIZWE SAMA YENDE busi­ness@city­press.co.za

Mpumalanga’s dis­used gold mines in the Secunda area are be­com­ing the next hot spot for “zama za­mas”, or il­le­gal min­ers, many of them for­eign­ers from coun­tries such as Le­sotho, Zim­babwe and Mozam­bique. Late last month, Mpumalanga po­lice ar­rested a well­pre­pared army of 197 Le­sotho na­tion­als, aged be­tween 16 and 68, with 20 pick­axes, 13 shov­els and two un­li­censed firearms, at Evan­der, Em­balenhle and Osizweni in­for­mal set­tle­ments.

Just three years ago, the po­lice ar­rested 109 for­eign na­tion­als from Le­sotho, Zim­babwe and Mozam­bique en masse in the same area.

Th­ese il­le­gal min­ers have also been re­spon­si­ble for escalating vi­o­lence as a re­sult of ri­val gang wars.

Other Mpumalanga hot spots sat­u­rated with il­le­gal gold min­ers are Bar­ber­ton and Ermelo, for coal.

Fur­ther gold min­ing hot spots in the country can be found in Gaut­eng and Free State.

In Lim­popo il­le­gal min­ers tar­get chrome and sand, in the North­ern Cape di­a­monds, and in the East­ern Cape and KwaZulu-Na­tal sand.

Il­le­gal min­ing, ac­cord­ing to a Cham­ber of Mines 2016 study, costs the min­ing in­dus­try and fis­cus more than an es­ti­mated R20 bil­lion a year in lost sales, taxes and roy­al­ties.

Mpumalanga po­lice spokesper­son Bri­gadier Leonard Hlathi said the Le­sotho na­tion­als were fined R1 200 each or two months’ im­pris­on­ment, when they ap­peared in the Secunda Mag­is­trates’ Court.

Hlathi said that il­le­gal min­ing was on the rise in the Secunda area. “There must be a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to this prob­lem and the po­lice can’t fight this alone. We of­ten ar­rest them [the zama za­mas] when we do our op­er­a­tions, but they pay the fines and come back,” he said.

Hlathi said that, un­like the il­le­gal min­ers in Bar­ber­ton who dig un­der­ground, in Secunda they scratch on the sur­face of mounds of soil left by old mines. There are no open shafts of dis­used mines, he said.

De­part­ment of min­eral re­sources (DMR) spokesper­son Martin Mad­lala did not re­spond to ques­tions seek­ing clar­ity on the de­part­ment’s plan to fight and end il­le­gal min­ing in the country and on whether there was a sug­ges­tion to for­malise small-scale min­ing so that the state could re­coup some tax.

Cham­ber of Mines’ se­nior ex­ec­u­tive of em­ploy­ment re­la­tions Dr El­ize Stry­dom said that il­le­gal min­ing was a com­plex matter that needed all stake­hold­ers to sit around the ta­ble and find so­lu­tions.

She said the cham­ber be­lieved that il­le­gal min­ers had to be in­cor­po­rated into main­stream min­ing to op­er­ate within the am­bit of the law.

“DMR and other stake­hold­ers must see if noth­ing can be crafted to en­sure that small-scale min­ers op­er­ate legally. We can’t con­done their break­ing of the law, vi­o­lence and work­ing for car­tels, but we must look into how we can bring them into the fold.”

Stry­dom said that tai­lor-made health and safety reg­u­la­tions for small-scale min­ers would have to be de­vel­oped, since they would be op­er­at­ing dif­fer­ently from min­ing cor­po­ra­tions.

The Cham­ber of Mines re­port analy­ses not only the eco­nomic im­pacts of il­le­gal min­ing, but also so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal ones.

On eco­nomic im­pact, the re­port points out that theft of cop­per, elec­tric ca­bles, diesel and ma­te­ri­als prej­u­diced the eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity of com­pa­nies. Other costs that need to in­crease as a re­sult of il­le­gal min­ing in­volve se­cu­rity and com­mis­sion­ing of res­cue ser­vices.

The so­cial im­pacts had to do with the in­flux of il­le­gal im­mi­grants, as 90% of ar­rested zama za­mas were un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants. The re­port said that an in­crease in crime and il­le­gal trade were two of the neg­a­tive im­pacts. It in­di­cates that the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts in­clude sab­o­taged pipe­lines that con­tam­i­nate the en­vi­ron­ment; il­le­gal wa­ter us­age and wastage; sink­holes cre­ated due to wa­ter pipe­lines; mer­cury con­tam­i­na­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment; and ex­ca­va­tion and re­open­ing of sealed and re­ha­bil­i­tated shafts.

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