Parliament’s Portfolio Committees call for abandoned mines to be destroyed

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Parliament’s portfolio committees of Mineral Resources and Energy, Police and Home Affairs are calling for the complete demolition of all abandoned mines to curb illegal mining.

The committees are conducting a two-day joint oversight visit to assess the state of illegal mining in the North West province. The visit come a few days after a group of 21 alleged illegal miners were arrested by a police team led by the Hawks. Over 20 firearms, ammunition and explosives were confiscated during the arrests in Stilfontein.

The Matlosana Local Municipality has some of the most active illegal mining sites in the country. Most are abandoned and left to fester, turning into a haven for criminal elements, that have spilled over to local communities. Kgosietsile Modiakgotla, chairperson for the Community Policing Forum in Kanana near Orkney says illegal miners are now terrorising the community.

“There are kidnappings, there are rapes, there are hijackings, there are murders. Some of the crimes that were not there before these people arrived, but now we are seeing an increase in the hijackings and in the murder and in the rapes. Mostly murders are committed with a firearm,” says Modiakgotla.

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy, Sahlulele Luzipo, comments on how the situation of abandon mines was left to deteriorate over time.

We can’t get the explanation why this area is still active to be utilised by zama zamas. We are told that there was an application for liquidation as early as the 1980s up to 1995 and it seems they still want to believe that that liquidation is still in effect. Surely you can’t have a liquidation that sits for more than 30 years.

The members of the parliamentary portfolio committees were even more disappointed at the next site of illegal mining activities which they visited. Committee members commented that one could see from the state of the buildings that the particular mine they were at had not been operational for a long time, and went on further to say the committee has long been saying that those not operating their licences should lose them.

They called the area a “serious warzone.”

Authorities says collaborative efforts are in place to combat this extreme level of criminality.

“We are deeply concerned as the department, and especially in the wake of what happened in Krugersdorp, that has put a sharp spotlight on the illegal and illicit mining that zama zamas are doing and that is why we work collaboratively with law enforcement agencies, that is why we work with Home Affairs and other relevant stakeholders,” says spokesperson for the Mineral Resources and Energy department Makhosonke Buthelezi.

The deputy police commissioner in the North West Province, Major General Patrick Asaneng, says they have been working at eliminating illegal mining.

“We have already conducted 59 operations this year. A total number of 232 people have since been arrested. The breakdown of the arrestees is, 149 are from Lesotho, 48 Mozambicans, 17 Zimbabweans and 18 South Africans,” explains Major General Asaneng.

The portfolio committee says it will also rope in the Department of Justice in its endeavours to address the scourge of illegal mining.


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