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Poor crime inteI blamed as illegal mining costs govt over R7bn per year - expert

At least 46 illegal miners, known as zama zamas, have been arrested by police during a simultaneous take-down operation in Krugersdorp and Randfontein. Photo: Hawks

At least 46 illegal miners, known as zama zamas, have been arrested by police during a simultaneous take-down operation in Krugersdorp and Randfontein. Photo: Hawks

Published Aug 4, 2022

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Pretoria - Ineffective crime intelligence and poor interventions by the South African Police Service (SAPS) have been pinned as the reason behind illegal mining that has escalated criminal activity in the country.

Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Zululand, Jéan Steyn, said SAPS members are responsible for maintaining public order, which includes securing the mining environment.

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Steyn was speaking to IOL on Wednesday following protests in Kagiso, Krugersdorp, after community members took to the streets to apprehend illegal miners.

The protest resulted in the death of one resident.

The protest followed a brutal incident in which eight women were gang-raped and robbed while shooting a music video at a mine dump last week.

When asked whose responsibility it was to keep the mines shut, Steyn said holders of mining rights and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy had a responsibility to make sure that non-operational mines remained shut.

He added that research showed the government suffered an annual financial loss of about R7bn from illegal mining.

“In other words, a basic income grant of R350 to 20 million South Africans is lost. Furthermore, an unwanted perception, real or perceived, at home and abroad, is that South Africa, as a sovereign state, cannot uphold the law, the consequences being definitively devastating for all and sundry.”

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Steyn said it was hard to estimate how much the illegal miners were making. However, research from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy indicated that the number of participants was growing.

Former general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, Frans Baleni, said the country would not have illegal mining if the government had been proactive.

Speaking to eNCA, Baleni said zama zamas were syndicates run by criminal masterminds, and his research had highlighted the problem many years ago.

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“As far back as 2014, I warned the authorities and all the stakeholders that if attention is not given to these illegal miners, something terrible is going to happen in our country and unfortunately we are experiencing exactly that.”

Baleni explained that illegal mining was bigger than what people were witnessing. “People seen on the ground are not masterminds behind the mining.

“There are gangs who mobilise weapons and they are territorial with their operation. From the gangs we got syndicates - these are local syndicates who network with exporters. Exporters network with international buyers,” said Baleni.

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The unregulated and illicit nature of the work is mostly done by undocumented foreigners from neighbouring countries.

IOL

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