Ergo gold recovery plant that treats 24-million tonnes of tailings a year. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Ergo gold recovery plant that treats 24-million tonnes of tailings a year. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Armed robbers shot dead DRDGold’s chief security officer at its Ergo gold recovery plant east of Johannesburg on Monday night and stole an estimated 17kg of gold worth R12m.

Ergo is a large plant near Brakpan, 50km east of Johannesburg that treats 2-million tonnes of tailings each month to extract remnant gold.

Bart Coetzee was shot dead during an exchange of gunfire with the armed gang that invaded Ergo during Monday evening.

“We are outraged by this callous and cowardly attack and will give our full support to the SA Police Service to ensure that these criminals, and the people they work for, are brought to justice,” said DRDGold CEO Niël Pretorius.

The gang made off with about 17kg of gold contained in concentrate.

SA has a problem with illegal miners accessing operational gold mines and defunct shafts to mine the metal. Gold companies have reported armed gangs fighting underground over the battle for the metal.

The illegal mining network is understood to be part of a large criminal syndicate and costs the SA economy billions of rand in lost revenue and tax.

An EU-funded study released in June 2019 by the Institute of Security Studies in collaboration with Interpol and the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime estimated illegal gold flows from SA are worth an estimated R14bn a year, the largest in Africa.

About 30,000 illegal miners, known as zama-zamas, are active on SA’s mines. Armed raids such as the one on DRDGold are rare because of the high levels of security around active gold mines and their processing plants.

seccombea@bdfm.co.za