The mineral resources department has embarked on an urgent ground stability study in Johannesburg, a year after warnings about threats to critical infrastructure. 

The study follows an exclusive report in the Sunday Times revealing that for a year the department had ignored pleas from Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba for urgent interventions to deal with illegal mining.

Mashaba made the calls after Transnet and Sasol alerted the city in 2017 to threats illegal miners were posing to their fuel and gas pipelines.

The warnings included revelations that illegal miners were using explosives dangerously close to their pipelines which run past critical infrastructure‚ including the M1 and M2 highways and bridges‚ and iconic landmarks‚ including the 94‚000-seater FNB stadium.

City infrastructure protection officials told the Sunday Times a breach of the pipelines would result in a blast radius of 300m, where everything would be incinerated.

In a statement released on Monday‚ the mineral resources department said the study would be undertaken in the Johannesburg area with immediate effect.

“The study‚ which will commence shortly through the Council for Geoscience (CGS)‚ aims to assess whether there is any long-term damage to critical infrastructure installation.

“While there is no immediate threat to critical infrastructure as has been claimed‚ government wants to confirm this assertion scientifically‚ and proactively deal with this matter not only in Johannesburg‚ but in other areas where illegal mining occurs.”

The department said the CGS was expected to provide a preliminary report on the matter within two weeks.

“The department further emphasises the importance of active participation by all stakeholders in the established Gauteng Illegal Mining Forum. This forum‚ amongst others‚ deals with immediate pressing matters on illegal mining. This forum is empowered to suggest and take appropriate remedial action in addressing critical concerns.

The forum‚ according to City of Johannesburg’s infrastructure protection unit head Conel Mackay‚ who sits on the body‚ last met in March.

The statement added that the department would continue to work through the National Co-ordination Strategic Management Team [NCSMT] on illegal mining issues.

The NCSMT was established to co-ordinate government’s efforts to fight illegal mining and the trafficking of precious metals.