‘High unemployment fuelling illegal mining’

Chief inspector of mines David Msiza says it’s not only derelict gold mines that are being targeted.

FILE: An illegal miner at the Langlaagte mine. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Parliament's mineral resources and police committees have heard how high unemployment in the country is fuelling illicit mining.

Chief inspector of mines David Msiza says that it’s not only derelict gold mines that are being targeted.

The illegal removal of chrome has also become a major challenge in Limpopo, where women and children are trying to extract the metal with their bare hands.

In March, the Chamber of Mines said that the country was losing R20 billion a year in lost sales, taxes and royalties as a result of illegal mining.

Section commander of the Hawks' organised crime unit, Ebrahim Kadwa, has told MPs that front companies are colluding with crime syndicates to clean illicit gold and stolen products for export.


Police have also told Parliament that illegal miners in South Africa are swallowing unrefined gold and platinum in condoms as a new tactic to avoid arrest for smuggling.

Kadwa said: “And this is done for two principal reasons. One is to be able to bypass mine security and the other one is to also prevent being robbed by rival groups.”

Illegal mining has plagued the sector for decades and extends from small time pilfering to global organised crime networks.

Msiza says that joblessness is also playing a role.

“High unemployment in some of the areas is also fuelling illegal mining, especially where there’s been business rescue and liquidation of operating mines.”

Msiza adds that his department is trying to rehabilitate derelict mines to promote legal mining.

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Statistics South Africa figures paint a bleak picture for young South Africans.

Stats SA's Quarterly Labour Force Survey reveals there are more than three million South Africans, aged between 15 and 24, who are neither employed nor pursuing higher education.

Ten million South Africans are between the ages of 15 and 24.

Over 54% of them are unemployed.

The second quarter unemployment figures show the country shed 113,000 jobs over that period.

The number of job seekers has also declined by 37,000.

Additional reporting by Ilze-Marie le Roux.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)