By GRAEME HOSKEN, SHENAAZ JAMAL, JAN BORNMAN, and KYLE COWAN It's a multibillion-dollar transnational business empire with its own financial targets, line managers, security personnel and CEOs. The playing field is spread over 6,000 disused gold, diamond, chrome and platinum mines across South Africa. With a workforce of up to 30,000 people - equivalent to the population of a small mining town such as Carletonville on the West Rand - the operations of illegal mining syndicates run day and night. Many of the illegal miners are immigrants, often working in conditions reminiscent of slavery. Illegal mining has been identified as a national threat and a multi-agency team has been formed toco-ordinate government efforts to combat it, says the Chamber of Mines. Mineral Resources Deputy Minister Godfrey Oliphant told parliament that syndicates were well organised and had up-to-date maps of mining operations. A big driver of illegal mining is rising commodity prices. It is estimated that ab...

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