Home » Illegal Mining Racket Exposed in South Africa: Security Experts Demand Action

Illegal Mining Racket Exposed in South Africa: Security Experts Demand Action

How the illicit activity is harming the country and what can be done to stop it

by Motoni Olodun

South Africa is facing a growing problem of illegal mining that is threatening the environment, the economy, and the rule of law. Security experts have urged the government to expand its investigations and crack down on the criminal syndicates behind this illicit activity.

Illegal mining, also known as zama zama, involves thousands of people who operate in abandoned or active mines, often with the help of corrupt officials and police. They extract minerals such as gold, platinum, and diamonds, and sell them on the black market, depriving the state of tax revenue and the legitimate mining sector of profits.

According to the Minerals Council of South Africa, an industry body, illegal mining costs the country about 21 billion rand ($1.4 billion) a year in lost sales, taxes, and royalties. It also poses serious risks to the environment, the health and safety of the miners, and the security of communities near the mines.

The issue of illegal mining came into the spotlight last week, when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the establishment of specialized units to combat priority crimes, including illegal mining, during his January 8 statement in Mbombela. Ramaphosa said the ANC welcomed the bolstering of the police service through the addition of 20,000 officers, the creation of specialized units, and the work done through various law enforcement operations in recent months.

However, security experts have warned that the president’s words are not enough and that more action is needed to address the root causes of illegal mining and the corruption that enables it. They have also called on the government to not turn a blind eye to the departmental incompetence that foils the efforts of the specialized units from within.

One of the experts, Dr Johan Burger, a senior research consultant at the Institute for Security Studies, said that illegal mining is a complex and multifaceted problem that requires a holistic and coordinated approach. He said that the specialized units should work closely with other agencies, such as the National Prosecuting Authority, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, the South African Revenue Service, and the Financial Intelligence Centre, to ensure effective investigations and prosecutions.

Burger also said that the government should address the socio-economic factors that drive people to engage in illegal mining, such as poverty, unemployment, and lack of opportunities. He said that many of the illegal miners are migrants from neighboring countries, such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Lesotho, who are desperate for a livelihood. He said that the government should work with these countries to find solutions that would discourage their citizens from crossing the border to join the Zama Zamas.

Another expert, David Bruce, an independent researcher on crime and policing, said that the government should also tackle the demand side of illegal mining, by cracking down on the buyers and traders of the stolen minerals. He said that these are often well-connected and powerful individuals who have links to organized crime and political elites. He said that the government should expose and prosecute these kingpins, and confiscate their assets, to send a strong message that illegal mining will not be tolerated.

Bruce also said that the government should improve the regulation and oversight of the legal mining sector, to prevent the collusion and corruption that facilitate illegal mining. He said that some mining companies are complicit in the problem, by applying for licenses for depleted areas, failing to rehabilitate and secure their mines, and even working with the zama zamas in off-the-books activities. He said that the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy should enforce the law and hold these companies accountable, as well as promote responsible and sustainable mining practices.

Illegal mining is a serious challenge for South Africa, but it is not insurmountable. With political will, public pressure, and inter-agency cooperation, the government can curb this menace and protect the country’s mineral wealth for the benefit of all.

Source: MSN


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