Illegal mining posing danger to community in Burgersfort

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Community members at Atok, outside Burgersfort in Limpopo are not feeling safe due to open holes from illegal mines in the area. Illegal chrome miners have left huge holes and trenches in the village, after extracting chrome.

Community members say the holes pose a danger to the residents and their livestock. For years the communities in and around Atok have been plagued by illegal chrome mining. Zama-zamas left huge holes and trenches because they don’t want to incur the costs of rehabilitating the mines after extracting chrome deposits.

Although President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the deployment of members of the South African National Defense Force to fight the scourge of illegal mines, the battle is raging on. Despite government efforts, the community say it’s not enough, asking them to close the holes, left wide open by illegal miners.

Traditional leader Mogale Makgolane says the community has raised funds to get a private company to rehabilitate the area because their lives and those of their animals are in danger.

“These holes which were left by illegal miners are posing a huge risk to our lives because some of them are filled with water. The zama zamas are now going underground to mine chrome, underneath people’s houses. A church has relocated because they have been mining underneath that church. Now we heard that they are under the R37 road, heading towards our public school, hence we got a private company that will close all the holes and shafts, because we can’t allow this to continue,”

One of the residents, Margaret Mothapo says they are concerned about their safety.

“The zama zamas are using jackhammers to mine chrome, even under our houses, and they are putting our lives in danger. We don’t have roads because they destroyed our roads with excavator machines, when mining chrome illegally. We don’t have water anymore because they also destroyed water pipes with their illegal mines. We are asking the government to close all these holes in our community,”

The Department of Mineral Resources spokesperson, Makhosonke Buthelezi says their mine closure and rehabilitation program only targets mines, whose owners cannot be traced.

“It appears in this case, illegal mining has taken place which has sadly damaged the environment around where communities live. Unfortunately, our program is not designed to respond to this kind of situation. The government is taking a serious stance against illegal mining and we have seen thousands of people who are involved getting arrested. So, we encourage communities to report any kind of illegal mining activities to the police to prevent these kinds of dangerous things happening in their communities.”

Environmentalists say illegal chrome mining activities can lead to environmental degradation and that the dust from the mineral can have adverse effects on the respiratory health of the public.

Video: Illegal mining leaves Burgersfort residents worried