21 February 2014

South Africa: Minister Wants Tougher Action to Stop Illegal Mining

Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu has called for more sustainable methods to ensure the closure of open holes, shafts and underground tunnels to prevent illegal miners from reopening sealed access points.

She appealed to members of the Gauteng Illegal Mining Stakeholders' Forum to strengthen efforts to deal with illegal mining in the province, especially in the East Rand and West Rand.

The minister's call follows rescue operations to remove miners who were trapped underground in the past few days. Since 16 February, 25 illegal miners have been rescued from the now defunct New Kleinfointein Gold Mine no. 6 shaft.

The Department of Mineral Resource (DMR), through the Council for Geoscience, has sealed 130 holes and shafts since they have been identified, with the remaining 51 sealed by mines operating in the area.

"As more holes and open shafts are discovered, they are sealed. But we need better, more sustainable methods which will close these openings permanently," the minister said.

A number of hotspots have been identified by the forum and are receiving attention.

"Illegal mining has economic implications and long-term rehabilitation implications, and this is why we must continue to fight it from all angles," the minister said.

This includes tougher charges and sentencing for illegal miners who have been arrested. The department said it would continue to work with the security cluster of government to enforce this.

The forum was established by the minister in 2012 to address challenges faced by the mining industry in respect of illegal mining. It is chaired by the DMR and reports to the National Coordination Strategic Management Team on illegal mining, led by the Directorate for Priority Crimes and Investigations - the Hawks.

The forum comprises the Departments of Mineral Resources and Home Affairs; South African Police Service; National Prosecuting Authority; mining companies; local government; organised labour and liquidators.

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