Artisanal miners were shocked on Monday after making a grisly discovery of human remains on the corner of Fuller and Waterloo streets in West End where they have been working the tailings for quite a few years.
Joseph Mositwane and his partners, Isaac Seleka and Andrew Booysen, had been digging at the same spot for two days when they started unearthing bones.
“At first we thought it was just part of an animal and threw the bones to one side,” Mositwane said on Monday afternoon.
He added that when the pile of bones started growing they started to get a “bit panicky”.
“We, however, carried on digging and then found a copper bracelet. This made us think that maybe it was a human’s remains
It wasn’t long after that, that the three made the grisly find of first the skeletal fingers and then the human skull.
“That really frightened us,” Mositwane said.
The three say that this is the first time in their six years of mining that they have made such a find. “We have been digging the tailings here at this spot for quite some time without ever finding something as a horrific as this.”
Many theories were put forth between the miners as to who the remains could have belonged to.
“Maybe it was from an old miner who worked here more than 100 years ago,” one miner quipped.
Another thought maybe it was an old woman that was buried there.
However, as the spokesperson for the Sol Plaatje Municipality, Sello Matsie, pointed out, until a full forensic analysis is carried out on the bones, it is impossible to tell who the remains belong to.
“We now need to call in the Heritage Society to help us identify the remains. Until such time that the bones can be analysed, all mining in the area needs to cease. It could be that there are other graves in the area and only once that has been ruled out can any activity continue,” Matsie said.
He pointed out that this would be a costly operation.
Matsie said further that the possibility of there being a graveyard was “highly unlikely” as the area where the bones were found was far away from the cemetery.
“A couple of years ago we had a similar situation where miners in the Gladstone Cemetery also dug up human remains. All activities were halted and the Heritage Society was called in to investigate.”
Matsie said that once the Heritage Society had concluded its investigations, it would then notify the public through advertisements if someone wanted to claim the remains. “If nobody claims the remains, it will then be re-buried.”
He added that the copper bracelet that was found might also prove to be significant.
“It is possible that it could also be the remains of a migrant mine worker from the time when the St Augustine mine was in operation. However, we will only know more once the proper DNA and forensic analysis have been completed,” Matsie said.
On Thursday last week skeletal remains were also found on the property of Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture (KEM-JV).