File photo: SAPS (Twitter)

DURBAN - More than 200 kilograms of gel explosives, thought to be similar to those used in cash-in-transit heists, have been stolen from the Zululand Anthracite Colliery (ZAC) in KwaZulu-Natal.

The African News Agency (ANA) understands that the theft took place during the night or morning of June 6.

South African Police Services’ KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane confirmed that a case of theft had been opened at the Nongoma police station and that detectives were investigating.

He could not confirm the kind of explosives stolen.

“We cannot give information as to how the explosives were stolen. No arrests have been made,” said Zwane.

However, according to a well-placed source, nine boxes of 25-kilogram gel explosives were taken. The source said the type of explosive was used in “blowing up ATMs, drop safes and cash-in-transit armoured vehicles”.

ZAC was previously owned by Rio Tinto and sold to Menar Holding in 2016 for an undisclosed amount. It is based 45 kilometres northeast of Ulundi and claims to be the “sole producer of Prime Anthracite in South Africa”.

The head of Menar Holding, Vuslat Bayoglu, told ANA that he had been in contact with ZAC’s general manager on Monday morning.

“We have discussed this with the relevant authorities and we were told we should not talk anything about this thing because it is sensitive and it could affect the case,” he said.  

He said this was the first time explosives had been stolen since the mine was purchased from Rio Tinto.

“I don’t know if it happened previously, but during our time, [this is] the first time. There is a theft case opened. Obviously it’s a criminal matter. We were told we should not go into detail,” he said.

However, Bayoglu said he had also been told that nine boxes of explosives were stolen but could not confirm that they were gel.

Security had been increased at the mine, he said, and “the security personnel who was [on duty] who claimed that he did not see what happened has been suspended and security has been increased,” he said. 

SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo told ANA that in incidents where explosives were used, they were “more often than not commercial explosives”.

“Whether this falls in this category or not, I can’t tell you that now,” he said.

African News Agency/ANA