Illegal and unregulated artisanal gold mining in the Witwatersrand Basin poses a growing threat to the safety of people, industry and the state. Reports of turf wars between rival gangs and shootings between illegal miners and security officials are commonplace. Lawmakers have expressed outrage at reports of rape, which has sparked protests by residents of Krugersdorp and other townships affected by the criminal activities of illegal miners. Illegal mining has come under scrutiny in recent weeks following the brutal gang rape of eight women near a disused mine in Krugersdorp in July. In the wake of these incidents, it is worth highlighting the systemic reasons why artisanal gold mining has become such a threat to peace and security. This includes decades of government failure to nip an unregulated and illegal artisanal mining industry in the bud. These incidents are also the result of the failure to formalize artisanal mining as a livelihood strategy through appropriate policies and legislation. Surface buyers around mines also organize first-tier illegal miners and support them with food, shelter and equipment. The announcement of the withdrawal of the MPRDA Amendment Bill, which introduced controversial concepts such as export restrictions on strategic minerals (as mentioned above) and the replacement of the ”first come, first served” application procedure with a regular invitation procedure by the Minister, is seen as a welcome development in creating regulatory certainty on the part of the government in the mining sector. The withdrawal represents a step towards the expected separation of the MPRDA into separate legal frameworks for minerals and petroleum resources, respectively, after the stagnation of legislative development in the oil and gas sector and in particular following the recent discovery of gas condensates in the Outeniqua Basin off the southern coast of South Africa by oil giant Total.
The Minister of Forests, Fisheries and Environment also recently published draft regulations for the exploration and production of onshore oil and gas that require hydraulic fracturing, ostensibly with the aim of promoting oil and gas exploration in South Africa. Illegal mining is on the rise in South Africa and presents challenges that need to be addressed from different angles. It takes place in abandoned mines and in exploited mines, where illegal miners often work in hazardous conditions. Last week, rape and robbery charges against 14 men also suspected of being illegal minors were dropped after police were unable to link them to the rapes through DNA evidence. The men were arrested during police raids on the abandoned mine where the rapes took place. In this context, an illegal and unregulated gold industry has been established, which is among the most lucrative and violent on the African continent. Mantashe made the remarks during a national plenary discussion on illegal mining in parliament on Thursday afternoon. ”Historically, illegal mining has been associated with abandoned and abandoned mines; However, it now has an impact on operational and authorized mines.
It is estimated that the South African economy and mining sector lost around R49 billion due to illegal mining in 2019,” he said. South African police are investigating the discovery of at least 21 bodies suspected of being illegal miners found near an operating mine in the town of Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg. On 30 March 2022, South Africa`s Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, released the 2022 Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Policy for implementation. At the same time, it published the 2022 Guidelines on the Resettlement of Mining Communities. Under current regulations, a mining permit – which is less expensive than a mining right – can be obtained, but artisanal miners still struggle to meet their requirements. The new directive aims to create a formal ASM industry that can operate sustainably, contribute to the economy and prevent illegal mining. The Ministry of Mineral Resources would create a new system by introducing a new type of permit. Other laws would be needed to make this work. This grim discovery is the latest in a series of incidents related to illegal mining in the Krugersdorp region.
In July, eight female film crew members were raped and robbed from an abandoned mine in the area where they were working on a music video shoot. The risks and illegality of the work itself, the intrusion, the unbridled use of mercury and the criminality of the sector constitute this dangerous and unpredictable work. Experts say ASM is up to 90 times more dangerous than larger formal operations due to its unregulated status. Dozens of artisanal miners die every year. Local communities are directly affected by illegal mining in terms of environmental degradation, health risks and gang violence between Zama Zamas` rival groups. Some miners are killed in territorial disputes. ASM in South Africa is explicitly prohibited as current regulations prohibit all activities that take place without a permit, including invasive and purely informal mining. The current legal framework treats small minors in much the same way as large minors. Finally, the powers of the precious metals regulator need to be reviewed. The changes must ensure that property security checks can be carried out on sellers and that gold sourcing patterns can be determined.
Unscrupulously licensed bulk buyers of illegally mined gold must also be identified and held accountable. West Village residents have since spoken of being ”prisoners in their own homes.” They attribute rampant crime in the region in recent years to illegal mining, a situation law enforcement agencies can`t or won`t control. The artisanal and artisanal mining (ASM) industry employs up to 80 million people worldwide and has been part of the South African mining landscape for many years. It takes place in the country`s main mineral products, including gold, coal, chromium and diamonds. In South Africa, up to 30,000 men, women and children – known as Zama Zamas – work in industry. They often work in and around about 6,000 abandoned and abandoned mines across the country. However, many also work in active commercial mines. It is estimated that 10% of the country`s gold production comes from ASM, for example. Analysts say more than 70 billion rand ($4.3 billion) of national revenue a year is lost due to illegal mining in the country`s gold sector alone.
Many artisanal miners are subsistence workers and many are illegal migrants from other African countries, including Zimbabwe, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. South Africa is distinguished by the fact that illegal miners mainly target underground industrial shafts rather than open-pit mines – as is the case in most countries – and that activities often take place in large mines.