Mining industry calls for government intervention to stop armed gangs at mines
JOHANNESBURG - The mining industry has called for government intervention in the sector following the spate of brazen killings by heavily armed gangs at different mines.
Mine executives this week said they reached out to authorities citing that smelters had become crime hotspots that threatened the survival of the entire industry.
A gang escaped with calcine concentrate, estimated to contain up to 17 kilograms of gold at DRDGOLD’S Ergo Plant in Brakpan killing, Bart Coetzee, a long-serving security guard during an exchange of fire last October.
DRDGOLD chief executive Niël Pretorius said the company while it was determined to prevent similar incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice, it could not do that alone.
“DRDGOLD is engaging directly, and through the Minerals Council South Africa, with the South African Police Services, the prosecuting authorities and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to intervene to address the spate of armed robberies on gold mines,” Pretorius said during the presentation of the company’s financial results on Wednesday.
In D ecember, Harmony Gold suffered a similar fate at its Kalgold mine when a security guard was gunned down by a gang forced.
The gang, however, did not manage to steal the gold.
Harmony Gold chief executive Peter Steenkamp said that he believed that organised criminal syndicates were taking advantage of the rally of the gold price, which has increased more than 20 percent in the last six months to $1 567 an ounce as investors dump risky assets for safe havens such as the bullion and bonds.
Harmony and DRDGOLD reported a 12 percent and 69 percent increase in revenue respectively in the six months ended December 2019 to R15.4 billion and R2.1 bn respectively due to the higher gold price realised during the period.
“The very good gold price puts them in a position where they can get a lot of money for gold,” Steenkamp said. “Unfortunately, as a company we do not understand organised crime well enough and we are not in a position to address it.”
Steenkamp said South Africa had been at the forefront of organised crime from drugs to illicit cigarettes.
He said that the company was devastated following the brazen killing.
“These are very tough things for us to have and to see people who have the audacity to come into our mines and execute people,” said Steenkamp.
The Minerals Council South Africa said that the industry had met with the police and the government about addressing the problem.
The council, a lobby group that represents 80 percent of production estimates that there at at least 14 000 people involved in syndicates, with trade in illegally mined precious metals estimated to be around R7 billion annually.
The council’s chief executive Roger Baxter told the African Mining Indaba in Cape Town this month that there had been “a surge in crime and an unprecedented deterioration in the security situation facing the South African mining sector.”
Baxter said the industry was that the lack of the lack of resources and capacity of the police to prevent these violent assaults.
He said the industry needed a specialised police unit to focus on the crime.
“Essentially, the industry is under siege,” Baxter said. “These crimes are hurting South Africa’s investment and economic prospects and urgent action is required.”