By Staff Writer

Illegal mining has, once again, come into sharp focus.
This follows the gang rape of eight young women at a mine dump in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg.
In an article republished in The Conversation, Professor Tracy-Lynn Field of Wits University’s Law School points out government’s failure to deal with the problem of illegal mining and accuses authorities of exposing local communities to a serious security threat.
“Recent incidents point to a spike in the scale of illegal activity, conflict and criminality. In October 2021, approximately 300 illegal miners, known as zama zamas, attacked and shot at police and security personnel when the officers tried to prevent them from delivering food parcels to underground miners,” said Field.
“In June 2022, about 150 illegal miners stormed gold miner Sibanye-Stillwater mothballed the Cooke Shaft near Randfontein in an attempt to gain control. And since over a week ago, South Africans have been reeling following the horrific robbery and gang rape of a film crew at a mine dump close to West Village, a multi-racial suburb of Krugersdorp on the West Rand.”
According to Field, the government has long failed to nip the unregulated and illegal artisanal gold mining industry in the bud.
In her view, the government could not provide security or leadership in containing the problem by formalising artisanal mining “as a livelihood strategy through appropriate policies and legislative provisions”.
Field says the 1994 Reconstruction and Development Programme committed the government to encourage small-scale mining. This was on the proviso that safety, labour, environment and health conditions were to be maintained.
She said the 1998 Minerals Policy identified artisanal mining with subsistence mining. It raised the need for the state to employ resources to “control artisanal mining as effectively as possible”.
Even the 2002 Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act was not up to the task.
“It only recognises large- and small-scale mining and criminalises all mining outside these categories.” The 2005 Precious Metal Act, also doesn’t cut it.
Field said: “It empowered the South African Diamonds and Precious Metals Regulator to regulate the acquisition, smelting, refining and beneficiation of gold.
“This removed the prior involvement of the South African Police Service and has been a key enabling factor for the unregulated gold mining industry.”
She said artisanal mining was ideal for job creation.
“It is a labour-intensive form of mining that uses rudimentary tools and technologies. Other sub-Saharan African countries recognise artisanal mining as a formal mining category. These include Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Kenya,” Field explained.
She said South Africa’s Witwatersrand goldfields have produced over 30% of all the gold ever mined.
But in recent decades, large-scale gold mining has declined precipitously. Between 2012 and 2019 the industry shed 42,000 jobs.
“In this context, an illegal and unregulated gold mining industry, among the most lucrative and violent on the African continent, has taken root.”

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