The Minister of Mineral Resources, Gwede Mantashe, has raised concern about the impact of illegal mining in communities.

He says it is an attack on the country’s economy and must be dealt with decisively.

Mantashe was speaking during his visit to the China Africa Precious Metals (CAPM) mine in Orkney in the North West.

This follows the discovery of 20 bodies believed to be those of illegal miners. The badly burned and decomposed bodies were found in grain bags on the surface near the mine.

SABC News reporter Tebogo Phakedi speaks to the police on the incident:

Mantashe was accompanied by the North West MEC for Health, Madoda Sambatha.

The Minister referred to the incident as criminal activity and declared the area, where the bodies were found a crime scene.

Mantashe says his department will meet with relevant stakeholders, including the office of the Minister for Police to provide back up to private security in areas where illegal activities are prevalent.

“That is a disaster but it is a disaster of criminal mining it is not a disaster of mining. This illegal mining is a criminal activity and it must be treated as such that’s why we appeal to the police that they must have specialised units to deal with illegal mining and stealing of precious metals until we do that we are unlikely to defeat this crime. We must actually form that unit, have specialised unit because Zama- Zamas are heavily armed they require specialise unit,” he says.

CAPM Mine Manager, Isaac Tshabalala, says when they realised that an accident had occurred underground they tried to offer assistance to the trapped illegal miners.

The regional leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers (Num), says although mineworkers are there illegally it would be the right thing to assist them.

“We do not have any information regarding these issues that are happening there. We just saw the reports from social media, so as the union there is no report that we received, the majority union in this region. But we feel very strong that those people our brothers they need assistance but all the stakeholders we are here and we agreed about a way forward,” says the union’s Vuyisani Lengesi.

Mantashe says the country lost R41 billion through illegal mining in 2018 alone.