The structure of Harmony Eland (shaft) Mine in Welkom, Free State. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg – The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) on Saturday urged authorities to intensify the crackdown on unlawful mining operations following the deaths of two illegal miners at the Eland shaft of Harmony mine in Welkom in the Free State.

“Mining houses should be held accountable for their failure to rehabilitate abandoned mines and for illegal activities that are claiming the lives of desperate miners who are lured to death traps by ruthless crime syndicates,” Sanco national spokesman Jabu Mahlangu said while also lauding the arrest of 22 illegal miners.

It was a travesty of justice that shocking atrocities by the so-called “zama zamas” were allowed to continue at the mine after 11 bodies were recovered four months ago.

“Someone must account as to why the slaughter field was not shut down permanently after that tragedy and those behind the illegal mining activities brought to book,” he said.

Mahlangu expressed concern that a minor from Zimbabwe was among those under police guard at different hospitals in the goldfields due to suspected methane gas inhalation underground. He urged police to investigate whether human trafficking was involved in these activities.

According to Free State police spokesperson Captain Stephen Thakeng, the 22 arrested illegal miners from Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Rustenburg, Klerksdorp, Soweto, Springs, Pretoria, Bekkersdal, Evaton, and Welkom were facing charges including trespassing, attempted theft of gold bearing material, and illegal immigration.

African News Agency (ANA)