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Illegal Mining Syndicate Busted in South Africa

Assets worth over R3 million confiscated from suspects and their spouses

by Motoni Olodun

A group of illegal miners and their spouses who were arrested for operating a gold mining syndicate in Khutsong and Carletonville have had their assets seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). The AFU obtained a preservation order over more than R3 million worth of property belonging to the suspects, who are from Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

The suspects were nabbed in October 2022 following a crackdown on illegal mining in the area. They were found in possession of fake South African ID documents and gold-bearing material. They also acquired cars and houses through unlawful activities, according to the NPA.

The AFU attached and seized 55 vehicles, 10 properties, R91 000 in cash, and other valuable assets from the suspects and their spouses on Friday. The preservation order was granted by the South Gauteng High Court on February 1, 2024.

The NPA’s Gauteng spokesperson Lumka Mahanjana said the AFU had obtained three other preservation orders last year, amounting to a total of more than R20 million. She said the AFU was working closely with the Hawks and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to curb illegal mining and recover the proceeds of crime.

“Illegal mining poses a serious threat to the economy, the environment, and the rule of law. It also endangers the lives of the miners themselves and the communities around them. The NPA will not hesitate to use its powers to confiscate the ill-gotten gains of these criminals and ensure that they face justice,” Mahanjana said.

Illegal mining is a rampant problem in South Africa, especially in the gold sector. According to the Minerals Council of South Africa, the country loses about R14.4 billion annually to illegal mining activities. The council estimates that there are about 30,000 illegal miners, known as zama zamas, operating across the country.

The government has been trying to address the issue by implementing various measures, such as the National Strategy on the Management of Derelict and Ownerless Mines, the establishment of a multi-stakeholder forum on illegal mining, and the deployment of the South African National Defence Force to assist law enforcement agencies.

However, some experts argue that these interventions are not enough and that more needs to be done to formalize and regulate the artisanal and small-scale mining sector, which could provide alternative livelihoods for the zama zamas and contribute to the formal economy.

Source: The Star

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