Ramaphosa says whistleblowers in communities are key to ending illegal mining

13th November 2023 By: Marleny Arnoldi - Deputy Editor Online

Following a detailed briefing on the State’s illegal mining intervention efforts by the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Ministerial Cluster last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa has taken up the topic in his latest weekly newsletter, highlighting how devastating illegal mining is to communities.

A central part of the State’s efforts to this end is the work of specialised Illegal Mining Task Teams set up by the South African Police Service (Saps) last year to conduct operations against illegal mining and its associated activities in hotspots around the country.

The task teams include members of various government departments including Home Affairs, Police, Justice and Correctional Services, Social Development, Defence, Mineral Resources and Energy, and Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, as well as entities such as the State Security Agency and Border Management Authority.

Ramaphosa lauds the efforts of the task teams in having made more than 4 000 arrests of illegal mining suspects, as well as more than 7 000 arrests related to illegal immigration.

Illegal immigration investigations are crucial in curbing illegal mining, since more than half of suspects arrested for illegal mining are foreign nationals from Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The President recently authorised the deployment of 3 300 defence force personnel to support the Saps in its ongoing operations against illegal mining until April next year.

Ramaphosa says in his newsletter that illegal mining is often linked to other crimes such as money laundering, bribery and corruption, illicit financial flows, human and weapons trafficking and other forms of organised crime. Of particular concern to the President is violence against and assaults of women.

“Our efforts to end illegal mining cannot focus only on the miners, but also on those people further up the value chain who benefit.”

He cites Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe in saying that illegal miners are foot soldiers for criminal syndicates and must be dealt with like any other economic saboteur.

The disruptive operations that have been undertaken against these syndicates have resulted in the forfeiture of assets and freezing orders against the assets of suspects by the Hawks and the Asset Forfeiture Unit.

However, for this fight to be successful, everyone has to play their part, the President highlights.

Mining houses that do not comply with the laws around the closure and rehabilitation of mines have contributed to the proliferation of illegal mining.

There are about 6 100 derelict, unused or abandoned mines in South Africa. In some cases, the mines are old and their owners cannot be traced, but in other cases, miners have failed to honour their obligations to rehabilitate or close these mines.

“We, therefore, welcome the efforts of the Minerals Council South Africa to support greater collaboration between government and the mining sector in tackling this problem.

“Our actions against illegal mining are part of a broader effort to tackle all crimes of economic sabotage, including cable theft, extortion at construction sites and other damage to critical infrastructure,” Ramaphosa states.

Through the work of specialised task teams, the Saps has made 61 arrests linked to extortion at economic and construction sites since April. Over the last four years, a total of 27 people have been convicted and sentenced for such crimes.

“Working together with business, unions and communities, we will not let up in our fight against the acts of sabotage that are undermining our country’s development,” Ramaphosa affirms.

He concludes that the work of State authorities is not possible or as successful without the cooperation of communities, particularly whistleblowers and the mining industry.