Mintails mining site reduced to rubble
As the guard from a neighbouring mine drove around, illegal miners, clustered in groups, struck spades into the earth.
“They're digging for gold-bearing material. They keep to their side, we keep to ours.”
In the past two months scores of illegal miners, some armed, have looted the only remaining asset of the Mintails Group in Randfontein after liquidators terminated the services of security personnel in May.
“There has been deliberate whole-scale destruction of the gold treatment plants, the Eskom substation and cables by unlawful miners and criminal syndicates with no intervention by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) or other competent organs of state,” said environmental justice activist Mariette Liefferink.
The only building left standing is the government’s Western Basin acid mine drainage plant, which is permanently guarded. Pumping stopped here after its electrical cable was sabotaged and stolen on May 24, by the illegal miners.
The Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA), together with the neighbouring Sibanye mine, installed an overhead power supply. This week, pumping resumed.
“Power was restored to the plant on August 7. The TCTA then pulled and serviced the pump as it had been idle for two months,” it said.
“The pump was commissioned on August 19 and the plant put into operation on August 20. We have security personnel on site at all times to safeguard the pump station.”
Another security official told how illegal mining activity was prolific on the site. “There are hundreds, if not thousands, of these guys on site. We just have to spend more and more on security. The big thing is all these scrap metal dealers. If there’s no market, they won’t steal here.”
Liefferink blames the DMR, which did not respond to questions by the Saturday Star, for allowing the situation to unfold. “The DMR failed to intervene in the liquidation and this could have been prevented.
“It failed during the operational phase to ensure there was rehabilitation funds and compliance with environmental legislation.
“The blame is not to be put on the Zama Zamas but needs to be placed on the organs of state who should have regulated and enforced non-compliance. I feel sorry for the small-scale artisanal miner who is doing this to put food on the table.
“But the criminal syndicates pose significant risks because they are living among local communities.”