Combatting Illegal mining: Department of Mineral Resources briefing, in presence of Minister

This premium content has been made freely available

Mineral Resources and Energy

09 November 2016
Chairperson: Mr S Luzipho (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

At the start of the meeting, Mr J Lorimer (DA) presented the Chairperson with a letter that he had drafted, expressing concerns about the possible irregular appointment, by the Minister of Mineral Resources, of an official to the Department of Mineral Resources. The content and motivation behind this was discussed by the Committee. Members had differing views on whether it was appropriate that the letter be presented to the Chairperson, and whether there was sufficient justification for raising the matters. It was decided that the Chairperson would formally hand over the letter to the Minister, who was present in any event at the meeting, and request a response to the next Committee meeting.

The Minister of Mineral Resources, and the DMR officials, then gave a presentation on illegal mining and what was being done to combat it. The Gauteng and Free State provinces were the worst affected by illegal mining practices, but the practice had also been found to happen in Limpopo (chrome), Northern Cape (diamonds) and Mpumalanga (coal and gold). Illegal sand mining in the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal also presented considerable environmental and health risks to nearby communities. It was stressed that the major concern was the effect of illegal mining on the health and safety of surrounding communities. Not only were the miners themselves at risk but the use of mercury, fire and explosives and poor practice led to erosion of underground support pillars that were stabilising infrastructure on the surface. Degradation resulted to water, soil and air. The use of mercury, fires and explosives in illegal mining processes can cause severe environmental degradation of water, soil and air. Government had fully recognised the criminal element involved in illegal mining practices, particularly international syndicates, and therefore had established a national coordination and strategic management team (NCSMT), which included representatives from DMR, South African Police Service, Intelligence Services and the Department of Home Affairs. The NCSMT had adopted a three-pronged approach in dealing with illegal mining practices. It was firstly promoting legitimate mining practices through the authorisation of mining permits. Secondly, it was dealing with rehabilitation of derelict mines, particularly in the sealing of mine entrances and shafts to prevent illicit access. Thirdly, the DMR works closely with law enforcement agencies to reduce incentives for people to enter the practice of illegal mining. However, the modus operandi of illegal miners was changing in response to these measures and it was recognised that securitization alone is proving an insufficient long-term approach in dissolving the sizable market for illicit minerals. There had been an increase in the prevalence of violent crimes as a result of gang fighting by competing, heavily armed syndicates for diminishing mining opportunities. Personnel from the SAPS, DMR and the Council for Geoscience had also been targeted and threatened. The syndicates were believed to be involved in human trafficking and illegal immigration, because most of the miners were foreigners.

The extent of the problem was outlined; in 2016, nine kilograms of gold was confiscated in the Free State province, R750 000 cash was confiscated at one particular mine, around R50 million of gold was discovered in a car travelling between provinces, and gold had been found mixed with gold coins, as well as with copper being exported as scrap. -In Mpumalanga, 21 trucks were confiscated as they attempted to smuggle illegally mined chrome from Limpopo across the border to Mozambique.

The Committee deliberated the cost of illegal mining to the South African economy, as well as the possible measures that can be implemented. The matter would have to be considered in the context that much of the illicitly extracted mineral wealth leaves South Africa, so the global market for precious minerals was an aggravating factor. Members urged that the extent of the problem must not be under-estimated and pointed to the situation in the DRC where war-zones had been perpetuated. Members agreed that the practice in the past of large mining companies coming in to extract, leaving without rehabilitating and deciding to close mines when there were still minerals that could be extracted had created a problem. However, this did present an opportunity for legalising small-scale artisanal mines. One Member suggested that in order to get to grips with the problem, Members must think in the same way as the illegal miners, and was in favour of legalising mining altogether, and presented a number of arguments in favour of this point. Others suggested that the solution lay in stricter control measures and would prefer political intervention in the form of bilateral talks and state-by-state intervention, as well as much more severe prison sentences. Members asked how the R750 000 confiscated in Free State had been appropriated. Members asked what exactly the DMR was doing to preserve minerals for South African citizens. They were worried that despite the efforts made, inspectors still feared for their lives and DMR does not have the capability to fight illegal operators alone. More detail was requested on the forums, and more information was requested on the arrests to date, the successes achieved, whether minerals were being processed internally or externally and what the plan was for certain dumps in Gauteng. Members agreed that the processes would need to be tightened, with more consideration given to changing the time frames to adduce evidence, and the DMR defining the basis for illegal mining. Members asked for the estimated cost to GDP to be quantified.

Meeting report

The Chairperson informed the Committee that Mr Mosebenzi Zwane, the Minister of Mineral Resources, would be attending the meeting although many of the delegation arrived late.

Appointments: Letter from Mr Lorimer to Committee
Mr J Lorimer (DA) asked the Committee to deal with a letter that he had drafted on 4 November 2016, relating to the possible irregular appointment of former Department of Mineral Resources Chief of Staff, Ms S Dlamini, to the position of Deputy Director-General: Mineral Regulation. Ms Dlamini had previously served as Financial Officer in the Free State provincial Department of Agriculture, which had been involved in irregular payments to a Gupta-linked company. He questioned whether due process had been followed in the appointment of Ms Dlamini, considering the “cloud of scandal” surrounding the Minister and his relationship with the Gupta family.

Mr Z Mandela (ANC) expressed disappointment, dismissing Mr Lorimer’s claims as unsubstantiated. He stated that he did not know of any scandal associated with Minister Zwane, and that the letter was “uncalled for”. Furthermore, he stated that “some of us may still be stuck in the mentality of the past”. Mr Mandela suggested that the letter be forwarded to the Minister’s office so that he may provide a proper response.

Mr M Matlala (ANC) stated that the power of appointment was the prerogative of the Minister. He argued that the letter had not been directed at the Committee, but rather to Minister Zwane himself, and the Minister was not obliged to respond before the Committee as the letter suggested. He described the content as t“disgusting”, and requested that Mr Lorimer provide proof of his allegations. He agreed with Mr Mandela that this letter should be forwarded to the Minister, so that a proper response could be given.

Mr Lorimer responded  that the Committee had an obligation to conduct oversight and uphold accountability on behalf of the people of South Africa. He dismissed the argument that the letter concerned Minister Zwane exclusively, as it was in fact addressed to the Chairperson. Regarding the contents of the letter, he argued “to deny the scandal is to deny reality”. He appealed that the Minister should respond to the letter, in order to assure the Committee that the appointment was above board. He strongly requested the Committee to conduct proper oversight on this matter.

Mr L Mokoena (EFF) urged members of the Committee to put partisan loyalties aside and not twist the facts. The scandal surrounding Minister Zwane had recently been explored in the local media, and he wondered why the Committee was reluctant to discuss the matter. He commented that it would be disingenuous to ignore these issues, as they are relevant to the Committee.

Mr H Schmidt (DA) argued that the letter was merely an inquiry into a single appointment: that of Ms Dlamini. The letter expressed the concerns of the media and other quarters of civil society. He invited Minister Zwane to take the opportunity to account for what really happened, and to state whether the relevant process was followed.

Ms M Mafolo (ANC) stated that in her experience, the Committee had never before involved itself in the appointments of staff to the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR or the Department). Furthermore, she argued that the Minister was not obliged to address the letter before the Committee, but should be given the opportunity to provide a comprehensive, written response.

Mr I Pikinini (ANC) stated that the Committee Members should not debate each others' credentials but that a free flow of discussion was needed before doubts were cast on the validity of the letter. It was written as a request to provide information. The Committee could decide how the letter should be handled. For this purpose, he stated that it would be useful to assume the Minister is not present, in order to avoid setting precedents that some form of immediate action needs to be taken. If the Committee wanted to be sensational, then Members could debate the Gupta family involvement, but this was not likely to yield any productive results, bearing in mind the mandate of the Committee. He recommended that the letter's scope be limited to enquiring about the appointment of Ms Dlamini, rather than the broader issue of the scandal around the Gupta influence. He agreed that it would be more appropriate for the Minister to present a written response to the Committee

The Chairperson excused Mr Lorimer from the meeting, since he had previously indicated that he would have to leave at this time.

Mr Mandela restated his request that this letter be forwarded to the Minister’s office directly. The issues around Gupta companies in the Free State were not the concern of the Committee. The wording was inappropriate, as he felt that the phrase “cloud of scandal” associated with the Minister was overtly theatrical and therefore not appropriate for discussion. He suggested that the issue of the appointment be dealt with after Mr Lorimer had received a response from the Minister.

Mr Pikinini followed from the point raised by Ms Mafolo that the letter had been addressed to the Chairperson. The matter was appropriate for discussion by the Committee, but the Minister should be given the opportunity to present a written response first.

Mr Schmidt speculated on the possibility that the Acting Director-General of the DMR, Mr Msiza, and others might have been involved in the appointment. He believed that the Minister had a moral obligation to answer, but had the right to either respond or not. Members could draw their own conclusions if the Minister chose not to respond.

Mr Mokoena stated that Members had their own political and partisan views, and to say that they cannot express these views would be naïve. He argued that it was incorrect that the Committee was not responsible for how departments employed individuals, for if the appointment was irregular, then it is clearly a governance issue, and this would fall within the Committee’s mandate. The letter was addressed to the Chairperson and the Chairperson and Committee must scrutinise it. The Minister had been given the opportunity to state that the appointment was not irregular, but the resistance to responding did seem to suggest something amiss. He agreed that the letter should be forwarded to the Minister and his response dealt with at the next Committee meeting.

Mr Pikinini applauded the Committee for the omnipresent atmosphere of trust and lively discussion, although in fairness the Committee did not have to debate everything. This was the first time the Minister had heard about the letter and would not be sufficiently informed to be able to deal with the content. He suggested that this should be dealt with at the next meeting.

The Chairperson stated that the basis of discussion on the matter should be written and transparent, in partial agreement with the point made by Mr Mokoena. He noted that Minister was not present on the basis of this letter, therefore unless there is a substantive basis for discussion on the broader allegations of the letter, those issues were not relevant for discussion now. He presented the letter formally to Minister Zwane, and requested that a response be presented to the next sitting of the Committee.

Minister Zwane confirmed that he had received the letter, and that its contents would be dealt with appropriately.

Mr Schmidt interjected, requesting confirmation that the Minister would respond at the next sitting of the committee.

Mr Zwane stated that the Committee should not be worried, as he would make time and deal with the issues appropriately.

Measures to combat illegal mining: Minister and Department of Mineral Resources briefing
Mr Zwane assured the Committee that notable strides had been taken to combat illegal mining activities, however there was still cause for concern. He referred to the recent accident in the George Harrison Heritage site, where several illegal miners had lost their lives. The fact that mining activities continued without authorisation meant that further measures were needed to reduce the trend, including the assistance of relevant stakeholders and the public. The consequences of illegal mining activities included health risks, loss of life, environmental degradation and fiscal losses to the formal mining sector.

The Minister stated that recent legislation such as the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) of 2002 promotes equitable access to the nations resources, specifically mining sites. Prior to the Act, there had been no measures to promote equitable access, therefore the state had inherited sizable derelict mines and mine dumps that were inactive and ownerless. These sites would require substantial financial commitments for rehabilitation and closure, but unfortunately many of these sites are still operated by small-scale illegal miners. In the Gauteng and Free State provinces in particular, these mines are often geographically intertwined in industrial and suburban infrastructure.

Illicit mining activities present a threat to the country’s economic prosperity, investment opportunities, and social security policies. For this reason, the DMR is collaborating with law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders to implement measures to curb these illicit activities. Minister Zwane commended these stakeholders on their efforts, particularly considering the increasing involvement of organized criminal syndicates in the process of illegal mining.

Mr David Msiza, Acting Director-General, Department of Mineral Resources, began his briefing with a background to the issue of illegal mining. He too noted that three illegal minors had recently lost their lives at the George Harrison Heritage site in Langlaagte, due to overexposure to carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide gases. He stated that illegal mining activities were not only prevalent in the Gauteng province, but also within the Free State, where the entrances of old, derelict mines were being used to access underground mineral deposits. In Mpumalanga, illegal gold mining and sustenance coal mining is increasingly prevalent; In Limpopo, several illegal chrome extraction projects have been uncovered. In the Northern Cape, illegal diamond mining is concentrated in the ‘Tigers Eye’ region. In the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal, illegal sand mining is particularly destructive to the environment.

Mr Msiza noted that law enforcement officials and rescue personnel put their lives at risk when dealing with rescue operations and the sealing of old mining sites. The DMR is working together with mining unions and various community forums to deal with derelict, ownerless mines in need of rehabilitation. The government has also established a national coordination and strategic management team (NCSMT), specifically considering the organized criminal elements involved in illegal mining. The NCSMT includes the DMR, the South African Police Services (SAPS), intelligence services, and the Department of Home Affairs.

The DMR has adopted a three-pronged approach in dealing with illegal mining practices. Firstly, it will promote legitimate mining practices through the authorisation of mining permits. In promoting legitimate mining operations, the DMR is working to enhance the opportunities of small-scale mining projects through the issuing of mining rights and permits. To this extent, small projects have been permitted to extract from abandoned mine dumps in Gauteng.

Secondly, DMR is attending to rehabilitation of derelict mines, particularly in the sealing of mine entrances and shafts to prevent illicit access. With the assistance of the Council for Geoscience and private mining corporations, 80 mining shafts have been sealed and rehabilitated between 2015/16, employing around 200 persons in the process.

Thirdly, the DMR works closely with law enforcement agencies to reduce incentives to entering the practice of illegal mining. In previous years, many illegal miners were arrested and released with trespassing fines as low as R100, however the conviction rate has since increased from two months to up to eight years.

Bribery and corruption of state officials and mining managers present a serious challenge in perpetuating the practice. It was reported that in 2016, nine kilograms of gold was confiscated in the Free State province, and around R750 000 cash was confiscated in one particular mine. The Hawks had also uncovered gold worth R50 million concealed in a car travelling between the North-West Province and Gauteng. In Kempton Park in Johannesburg, a man was arrested with R435 million worth of gold that he had mixed with gold coins, in an attempt to claim back tax benefits from the South African Revenue Services (SARS). Earlier this year in Mpumalanga, 21 trucks were confiscated when they attempted to smuggle illegally mined chrome from Limpopo across the border to Mozambique.

Mr Msiza noted that the modus operandi of illegal mining practitioners are changing in response to the measures undertaken by the DMR. He stated that as long as there is a market, it would be difficult to bring an end to illegal activities through increasing security measures alone. There has been an increase in the prevalence of violent crimes as a result of gang fighting by competing, heavily armed syndicates for diminishing mining opportunities. Personnel from the SAPS, DMR and the Council for Geoscience have also been targeted in these attacks. The illegal mining industry is also closely linked with human trafficking and illegal immigration, as the individuals doing the digging are often from foreign countries. The process of rehabilitation often proves frustrating, as many of the sealed mining entrances are being continuously reopened or circumvented by prospective illicit miners.

The consequences of illegal mining are first and foremost linked with the health and safety of surrounding communities. This includes not only formal and illicit sector miners, but also the erosion of underground support pillars stabilizing infrastructure on the surface. The use of mercury, fires and explosives in illegal mining processes can also cause severe environmental degradation to water sources, soil and air.

To address these challenges, the DMR is committed to supporting the work of NCSMT and other stakeholders in order to disrupt illegal mining operations at a syndicate level. The NCSMT is also concerned with strengthening the legislative framework on issues pertaining to charging, prosecuting and processing criminals. To this extent, progress has been made in investigating the licensing of small mineral refineries and jewelry shops across the country. In addressing the international market for illegal metals, the NCMST has committed itself to implementing the United Nations (UN) Resolution 2013/38 on combatting transnational organized crime and possible links to illegal trafficking of precious metals. The NCSMT collaborates with municipalities, land owners and mining companies to seal and rehabilitate derelict underground mines, as well as remove exposed mineral outcrops found in gravel and mine dumps. Lastly, the DMR has committed itself to aligning local and national government initiatives on assisting the legitimate practice of small-scale miners.


Mr Mokoena noted that although the illegal mining situation in South Africa is, for now, not a national priority, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a war-zone that is perpetuated by this trade. For this reason, the problem should not be underestimated and a proactive solution is required. The fact that illegal miners continued to mine, in spite of the measures implemented to curtail the practice, meant that there are still incentives. Personal safety, for this purpose, becomes a “grey area”. He noted that PACT, a non-governmental organization, had recently reported on the “hierarchy of mining”, wherein big mining companies enter countries for the purpose of extraction, but leave when their operation is considered unprofitable. From this position, he elaborated, many governments choose to close mines indefinitely, despite the fact that minerals that can be extracted still remain. He noted that individuals like Patrice Motsepe had been successful in exploiting this hierarchy, by introducing smaller artisanal mines with lower profits.

Mr Mokoena suggested that in order to address the problem of illegal mining, it was necessary to think like the illegal miners, rather than adopting the attitude and ideology of the big mine companies. He argued that by legalising the industry completely, there would be wider distribution of mineral resources, no need to waste resources on closing mining operations, and greater opportunities for smaller, artisanal mining groups. He suggested that government should undertake a thorough audit of mines and categorise them into those with extractable minerals, and those that are non-extractable. Secondly, the illegal sector should be formalised through the installation of safety features and greater regulations on practitioners. Thirdly, practitioners should be trained and provided with the necessary expertise to conduct mining operations more effectively. He argued that the current strategy of rehabilitation and closing was essentially “throwing money down the drain”. On the other hand, diverting resources into formalising the illegal mining sector could yield massive employment opportunities for South Africans.

Mr Matlala commended the DMR on the progress made in addressing the problem of illegal mining, considering the safety risks involved therein. He expressed disappointment at the manner in which large, foreign mining conglomerates extracted South Africa’s mineral resources and subsequently leave behind the considerable challenge of sealing and rehabilitating these mines. He noted that Members of the Committee did not feel safe during their visit to illegal mining sites in the Free State, in view of the powerful, heavily armed syndicates operating in the area. He stressed that if the matter is not taken seriously, the next generation will be left with the same problems. He agreed that much of the illegal mining activity in South Africa is not being undertaken by South Africans, but by foreign nationals. For this reason, Mr Matlala suggested a political intervention in the form of bilateral talks and state-by-state intervention.

He made the point that the R100 bail usually set for trespassing illegal miners is paid by the criminal syndicates for whom they work. As a result of these syndicates, billions of rands were leaving South Africa, heading to “the mafias of this world”. He stated that if the illegal activities were being undertaken by South Africans, the matter would be less serious, but the issue was inextricably linked with immigration. He suggested that the prison sentence for prosecuted illegal miners should be increased to a minimum of 40 to 50 years. Finally, noting the R750 000 confiscated in the Free State, Mr Matlala requested how law enforcement had appropriated that money.

Ms H Nyambi (ANC) followed up Mr Matlala’s question, asking also whether the DMR had a plan as to how the confiscated R750 000 would be appropriated.

The Chairperson requested if the figure of R750 000 as reported was correct. He stated that the money was not held by the SAPS, but rather by the management of the company which owned the illegal mining site.

Mr Mandela thanked the DMR, noting that this presentation came on “a sad day for the developing world, with the announcement of the USA Presidential election results. He agreed that most of the illegal operations were  undertaken by foreign nationals. On Members' visit to the Free State and Gauteng provinces, this had been seen first hand, with many South African nationals speaking out against the pillaging of mineral resources. He wondered what exactly the DMR was doing to preserve minerals for South African citizens? , He argued that there was no clear strategy to prevent South Africa’s minerals leaving the country. In agreement with Mr Mokoena, he argued that it is necessary to create an environment conducive for small-scale mining operators to enter the industry.

Mr Mandela wanted to note that the frustrated, emotional position of Mr Matlala did not represent the position of the ANC. He stated that it was critical to find solutions for the betterment of South Africa. The DMR’s activities thus far, in terms of their work with the inter-ministerial forum and the security cluster had still not changed the fact that inspectors are fearing for their lives. To this extent, he argued that the DMR does not have the capability to take the fight to illegal operators alone, considering these operators are armed with heavy weaponry.

Mr Mandela noted that there were stakeholder forums but asked where these forums were, and which communities were involved. He finally asked what the DRM is doing to ensure illegal miners are prosecuted? He would be interested to hear other views on whether there should be heavier penalties.

Mr Lorimer noted that the illegal mining industry was worth around R5 billion a year, and this had been ongoing for a long period. The NCSMT had also been around for around seven to eight years, and he wondered how many high profile arrests of the “big fish” had happened since the NCSMT was established. He requested that a list of these high-profile arrests should be presented to the Committee. He wondered, in view of the extensive times and substantial investment towards combatting illegal mining, why there had been such limited progress to date. He saw the logic in the points made by Mr Mokoena in favour of legalising artisanal mining, and asked whether the DMR had been considering legislative or regulatory changes towards illegal miners. He argued that the existing legislation to prosecute and punish illegal miners is insufficient. He enquired whether the raw minerals extracted through illegal mining projects were being refined, and if so, if this was happening inside or outside the country. He also asked whether mining companies had any ambitions to reprocess the large, mine dump outcrops in Gauteng, and whether these were sites that could be used for artisanal operations.

Mr Msiza thanked the Committee, noting that he shares the sentiments expressed by the Members. He stated that the challenge was not exclusive to South Africa, but is inextricably linked to the position in other African countries, as well as the global market for precious minerals. The DMR must continue to promote investment into the mining sector. In this regard, it is critical to understand the challenges faced by investors, in terms of legislation and policy. The DMR was actively working at diversifying the markets in a manner that is aligned with the National Development Plan (NDP) framework for beneficiation, diversification and job creation. He commented that the development of national infrastructure – roads, power, housing, manufacturing – would almost invariably involve the mining sector to some degree. Therefore, the challenges of the DMR must be considered in this wider context. The broader government imperatives of driving economic growth and stimulating employment are critical to the agenda of the DMR.

With regard to small-scale mining operations, Mr Msiza stated that it was critical to support the growth of the sector, as suggested by Mr Mokoena and Mr Mandela. However, he cited an example of a small-scale mining operation in Barberton, where the government had considered the mine as viable, supplying safety equipment, wages and basic regulations for processing to artisanal miners. However, the miners realised that they were not making as much money as they had done previously, and started taking waste materials for processing and keeping the gold for themselves. He argued that this exemplified the difficulty in legalising criminal activity, as the goal of criminal syndicates was to make as much money as possible.

Mr Msiza explained why large mining conglomerates had not rehabilitated their exhausted mines, which was simply that prior to the MPRDA and the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) of 2014, there had been no legislation to enforce rehabilitation. The DMR is trying to force current owners to conduct rehabilitation through the Enforcement and Compliance Unit.

Mr Msiza conceded that there was more to be done to raise the conviction rate for illegal miners. Previously, they might receive fines as little as R50 when prosecuted. The NCSMT had a task team assessing the legislative provisions in order to give law enforcement an opportunity to prosecute criminals for charges that were more serious than simply trespassing. He noted that the R750 000 confiscated in Free State had already been touched upon in earlier discussion.

Mr Msiza noted that departments from the Economic Cluster were looking to address the illicit economy issues from an economic perspective. In this regard, the current macro-economic strategy involves lifting barriers to mining to promote legitimate practice through licensing and commitment to rehabilitation.

He noted that the DMR had prioritized key areas in Gauteng, the Free State, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape for running community forums. He would provide the contact details of these regional offices. One of the major challenges relating to these forums is the danger posed by criminal syndicates who resist the closing of illegal mines, because members of these forums had received threats for partaking in these forums. With the assistance of the security cluster and the Hawks, progress had been made in arresting not only criminal syndicate members, but also high-level mine managers involved in illicit mining practices.

Speaking to the legalisation of the small-scale mining operations, Mr Msiza said that the MCSMT is working to provide permits for operations for up to 1.5 hectares of land. However, the main issues relate to environmental authorisation procedures and financing.

He noted that the NCSMT task team had found that in some instances, gold was being mixed with copper and exported as scrap metal through ports and international borders. The officials at these borders had now therefore been given training to identify and differentiate gold-bearing material. The NCSMT was also working with SARS to catch individuals mixing illegally extracted gold with gold coins, and claiming VAT on these assets.

He explained that the mine dumps were prioritised, based on grade and commodity prices, in order to determine whether it was viable for mining companies to exploit these outcrops.

Mr Lorimer requested that the Committee be given a list of the high-profile arrests made in connection with illegal mining practices.

The Chairperson thanked the DMR for highlighting the key issues raised, and stressed the need for tighter legislation to improve the situation. He noted that law enforcement agencies had complained about the criminal procedure that had to be followed when prosecuting illegal miners. The 48-hour period required to provide evidence of illegal mining was insufficient time, considering the difficulty in differentiating legal and illegal minerals. He stated that the problem mirrored issues faced by Eskom regarding theft of copper wiring. He urged the DMR to properly define the basis for illegal mining, considering complaints by industrial players that illegal miners were straying into areas permitted for legal mining.

The Chairperson made the point that the Committee recognised the severity of the issue, but asked if there was a way to quantify the problem. He asked what was the estimated cost to the Gross Domestic Product? If mining is not done effectively, he argued that the spillover effects on the economy would be heavy. He stated that the appeal behind engaging in illegal mining was that it was compelling, quick and informal. For this reason, key institutions should be encouraging small-scale mining practices. He estimated that the cost of life when engaging in illegal mining was high, but requested a concrete figure reflecting cost to life.

Mr Msiza agreed that some more detailed information could be made available to the Committee, but some may be sensitive. The NCSMT had recently acquired new technology, including a fingerprinting system able to identify where minerals were extracted. With regard to facilitating small-scale mining operations in Gauteng, he made the point that many of the prospective sites are surrounded by industrial and suburban areas, so that mining operations must be restricted, particularly if intending to use explosives, and bearing in mind the presence of underground stability pillars. He confirmed that the information would be presented to the Committee.

Other business
The Committee adopted minutes from meetings on 26 October and 2 November.

The meeting was adjourned.

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: