Home » Ramaphosa Targets Illegal Mining to Boost Security, Economy in South Africa

Ramaphosa Targets Illegal Mining to Boost Security, Economy in South Africa

by Adenike Adeodun

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently emphasized the devastating impact of illegal mining on communities in his weekly newsletter. This follows a detailed briefing by the Justice, Crime Prevention, and Security Ministerial Cluster on the state’s intervention efforts against illegal mining. The South African Police Service (Saps) set up specialized Illegal Mining Task Teams last year, aiming to combat illegal mining activities nationwide.

These task teams comprise members from various government departments, including Home Affairs, Police, Justice and Correctional Services, Social Development, Defence, Mineral Resources and Energy, Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment. They also include entities like the State Security Agency and the Border Management Authority. These coordinated efforts have led to over 4,000 arrests related to illegal mining and 7,000 arrests linked to illegal immigration.

Investigations into illegal immigration are vital, as over half of those arrested for illegal mining are foreign nationals from countries such as Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. President Ramaphosa has authorized the deployment of 3,300 defence force personnel to support Saps’ ongoing operations against illegal mining until April next year.

According to a report by Mining Weekly, the President highlighted that illegal mining is often associated with other crimes like money laundering, bribery, corruption, illicit financial flows, human and weapons trafficking, and other forms of organized crime. He expressed particular concern about violence and assaults against women linked to these activities.

“Our fight against illegal mining must target not just the miners but also those higher up the value chain who profit from it,” Ramaphosa stated. He quoted Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, saying illegal miners are mere foot soldiers for criminal syndicates and should be treated as economic saboteurs.

The disruptive operations against these syndicates have led to the forfeiture and freezing of assets by the Hawks and the Asset Forfeiture Unit. However, Ramaphosa emphasized that success in this fight requires everyone’s participation, including mining houses. Non-compliance with laws regarding the closure and rehabilitation of mines has exacerbated illegal mining activities.

With approximately 6,100 abandoned mines in South Africa, some are old with untraceable owners, while others are due to miners’ failure to fulfill their rehabilitation obligations. Ramaphosa welcomed the Minerals Council of South Africa’s efforts to foster collaboration between the government and the mining sector in addressing this issue.

He also affirmed that actions against illegal mining form part of broader efforts to combat economic sabotage, including cable theft and extortion at construction sites. Through the specialized task teams’ work, Saps has made 61 arrests linked to extortion at economic and construction sites since April, with 27 convictions and sentences over the last four years.

“Working together with businesses, unions, and communities, we will continue our relentless fight against acts of sabotage undermining our country’s development,” Ramaphosa asserted. He concluded by underscoring the importance of community cooperation, particularly from whistleblowers and the mining industry, in supporting the state authorities’ efforts.

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