Teams fighting illegal mining are showing results, says Cyril Ramaphosa
‘Illegal miners are foot soldiers for criminal syndicates and must be dealt with like any other economic saboteurs’
President Cyril Ramaphosa has hailed the fight against illegal mining, saying the government is seeing results.
He was reflecting on the progress reported by the justice, crime prevention and security cluster on curbing criminal activity and arresting those responsible.
Ramaphosa said a central part of the effort were the specialised illegal mining task teams set up by the SA Police Service (SAPS) in 2022 to conduct operations against illegal mining and associated activities in hotspots around the country.
“A number of intelligence-driven operations by these task teams, supported by the Hawks, have culminated in more than 4,000 arrests for various offences related to illegal mining. Between April and August, there have also been arrests of more than 7,000 suspects involved in illegal mining for contravening immigration regulations,” he said.
Ramaphosa said he recently authorised the deployment of 3,300 SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel to support the SAPS in its operations against illegal mining for a six-month period.
“This deployment will provide valuable support to the SAPS as it gains further ground. The SANDF deployment supports a multisectoral effort that brings together the SAPS, State Security Agency, the newly formed Border Management Authority and the departments of mineral resources and energy, home affairs, justice and constitutional development, environmental affairs and others.”
The president said illegal mining was linked to other crimes such as money laundering, bribery and corruption, illicit financial flows and human and weapons trafficking.
“Recent incidents have shown some of the devastating effects of illegal mining on the safety of communities. These include the gang rapes last year of a group of women allegedly by illegal miners; an underground gas explosion at a disused mine in Welkom in May this year that killed 31 illegal miners; and a gas explosion linked to illegal mining activity at an informal settlement in Boksburg in July this year that claimed dozens of lives.”
Ramaphosa said government efforts to end illegal mining could not focus only on the miners, but also on those further up the value chain who benefited.
“As minister Gwede Mantashe said last year, illegal miners are foot soldiers for criminal syndicates and must be dealt with like any other economic saboteurs. The disruptive operations that have been undertaken against these syndicates have resulted in the forfeiture of assets and freezing orders against the assets of suspects by the Hawks and the Asset Forfeiture Unit.”
For this fight to be successful, the president urged everyone to play their part.
“Mining houses that don’t comply with the laws around the closure and rehabilitation of mines have contributed to the proliferation of illegal mining. There are approximately 6,100 derelict, unused or abandoned mines in SA. In some cases the mines are old and their owners cannot be traced, but in other cases miners have failed to honour their obligations to rehabilitate or close these mines.”
Ramaphosa welcomed the efforts of the Minerals Council SA to support greater collaboration between the government and the mining sector in tackling this problem.
“Our actions against illegal mining are part of a broader effort to tackle all crimes of economic sabotage, including cable theft, extortion at construction sites and other damage to critical infrastructure.”
Through the work of specialised task teams, the president said SAPS had made 61 arrests linked to extortion at economic and construction sites since April. Over the past four years, 27 people have been convicted and sentenced for such crimes.
“Working with business, unions and communities, we will not let up in our fight against the acts of sabotage that are undermining our country’s development. We congratulate our law enforcement agencies and security services for their successes in dealing with these crimes.
“Their intelligence-driven operations would not be possible without the co-operation of communities, whistleblowers and industry. If we continue to work together, this is a battle that we can and will win.”
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