Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe says his department is working on sealing holes at abandoned mines in areas such as the East Rand and the West Rand in Gauteng because they have become fertile ground for so-called zama-zamas.
He says these illegal miners are breaking the law and they must be arrested. Mantashe spoke to the SABC on the sidelines of an event to hand over a school built through a partnership between Royal Bafokeng Platinum and the North West Education Department in Rustenburg.
Illegal mining activities have largely been continuing unabated. Illegal miners have infiltrated mineral-rich areas allegedly terrorising communities and the owners of the land they mine on.
Zama zamas’ operations demolished in Bekkersdal:
“According to mining experts, we have a lot of chrome, some platinum, nickel and Kimberlite diamonds. Because of this illegal mining we can’t achieve much. It’s heartbreaking for the Bapolomiti to see their land benefit others and not them. After getting our land we plan to mine as Bapolomiti,” says Bapolomiti CPA Casey Mantu.
Experts say greater political will is needed to curb this growing criminality in the 6 000 abandoned mines across the country.
“To deal with the issue of small-scale mining doesn’t require policing. It requires a mining solution. It requires an economic solution. It requires that the government signs and drafts policy to allow for small-scale mining and to regulate that small-scale mining effectively so as to keep out criminals and syndicates from exploiting the people who are doing the actual mining,” says Bench Marks Foundation’s David van Wyk,
Meanwhile during his visit to Rustenburg Mantashe indicated that efforts were under way to close off unused mines to curb illegal mining.
“We have closed almost all the holes in the East Rand. We are now given a directive that, let’s move to the West Rand quickly because there’s a crisis, and we’ll close those holes. But the reality of the matter is, owner less and derelict mines, are owner less, they don’t belong to existing mining companies. But we must close the holes, because they pose a danger to society,” says Mantashe.
According to the Bench Marks Foundation, there are currently an estimated 34 000 zama zamas in the country.