INSIDE EWN: How can SA effectively end illegal mining?

Panelists discuss the issue of illegal mining in South Africa and look at the options available to authorities to halt it.

Some of the equipment used by illegal miners were seized by police at a mining dump near Krugersdorp on 3 August 2022. Picture: @SAPoliceService/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Illegal mining continues unabated in South Africa, despite promises from the authorities to halt the activity.

In the latest incidents, at least 31 illegal miners were killed underground at an abandoned mine shaft in Welkom in the Free State, while in Gauteng, police discovered eight bodies of suspected zama zamas at a dumping site in Germiston.

While discussing possibles ways of how the country can halt illegal mining for good, director at WoMin African Alliance, Samantha Hargreaves, said that was important to look at concurrent and post-mining economics in this country and then plan, because logically, industrial mining is ending, especially in the gold mining sector where the mines are no longer profitable.

“Mines that are considered to be no longer profitable are not shutting down properly and also they are not shutting down in a manner that suggests we can reuse infrastructure and facilities that are available on these mines for the purpose of keeping those towns alive.”

She also added that the government needed to do an audit of all infrastructure that is available there and then see how that can be repurposed to be used in the mining economy, like the extraction of methane in Welkom.

The rise of illegal mining in different communities has also alluded to high unemployment in marginalised areas and lack of skills and development thereof and issues of illegal migration like in the case of Welkom, where Lesotho's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lejone Mpotjoane, admitted that his country's poor economy was contributing significantly to acts of illegal mining in South Africa.

Mining analyst, David van Wyk, believes that communities can benefit from small-scale mining.

“Small mines can be repurposed for medium-scale mining so that they can continue to produce gold and make a living of it. But for the mines that are too dangerous, the department is to shut them down as they are not viable for the economy.”

Van Wyk also added that properly managed small and medium-scale mining could create jobs and economic benefits for all, saying that infrastructure from mines that are about to be closed often included workshops, housing, sport and recreation facilities and sometimes hospitals and clinics and that these could be used in service delivery instead of being allowed to go to ruin.

Listen to the full conversation below.