South Africa News

Over 300 undocumented foreign nationals arrested for illegal mining in Gauteng

The police in Gauteng have pounced on more than 300 suspected illegal miners, while two others were arrested in North West.

The alleged zama zamas, who are undocumented foreign nationals, were arrested across different areas in the province, where illegal mining activities take place.

The provincial South African Police Service (Saps) had carried out Operation Shanela throughout the week.

“A multidisciplinary and integrated operation consisting of Saps, South African National Defence Force [SANDF], Department of Home Affairs, Department of Labour and other law enforcement descended on Primrose and Boksburg in Ekurhuleni District, Cleveland in Johannesburg district and Kagiso in West Rand district where illegal mining is rife and demolished such illegal activities,” Gauteng police spokesperson, Mavela Masondo said in a statement on Saturday.

Masondo said a number of items were confiscated during the operations, which were carried out from Monday to Friday.

“High calibre firearms, which include AK-47 rifles, were recovered. A substantial amount of tools used for illegal mining, including gas cylinders, generators, and explosives, were seized. Illegal mining sites were disrupted and dismantled,” he said.

“These disruptive operations will continue in Gauteng, and the police are calling on residents to report such activities as most of them are happening in the close watch of the community,” Masondo added.

North West illegal mining

Meanwhile, two men also been arrested in connection with illegal mining operations at a farm in Witrantjie Village, North West.

The undocumented foreign nationals were nabbed on Thursday by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DCPI), also known as Hawks, in a joint operation with Mahikeng’s public order police as well as the Rustenburg and Vryburg local criminal record centre.

The provincial police had received a tip-off about Witrantjie community members who were suspected of conducting mining activities without authorization from the Department of Mineral resources and Energy (DMRE) and Thutse Mining Scale.

Witrantjie is notorious for illegal chrome mining.

“Upon arrival the team found one excavator busy with mining activities in the pit. Its operator was stopped and interviewed while the official from DMRE demanded environmental mining authorization, which he failed to produce,” Hawks spokesperson Amogelang Malwetse said.

Malwetse said the police team also found another excavator with its operator busy with mining activities in a second pit.

“The suspect was also asked to produce the environmental authorization document, however, he failed to do so.”

Wellington Nyakazeya, 29, and Martin Mutanhuri, 52, made their first appearance in the Mogwase Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

The suspects were charged with contravening the National Environmental Management Act and for being illegally in the country.

They were remanded in custody and will appear again in court on Thursday after their case was postponed.

Derelict mines

According to the government, there are 6 100 derelict and ownerless mines, which negatively impacted operational and licensed mines.

The Department of Mineral Resources is working on a policy to close all the illegal mines in the country.

At least 40 mine holes were being sealed every year.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe previously indicated that at least R49 billion was needed rehabilitate illegal mines.

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