OPINION

Johannesburg's illegal gold mining indicates State failure – James Lorimer

DA says there has been suspiciously little official action to prevent illegal gold mining in City and will add fuel to allegations of top-level involvement

Johannesburg's illegal gold mining indicates State failure

12 September 2016

While we do not condone illegal gold mining, the DA wishes for the speedy rescue of the 51 miners who are reportedly trapped at the Langlaate gold mine and we call on law enforcement to exact the full might of the law on these syndicates who lethally exploit desperate people looking to put food on the table. 

To date there has been suspiciously little official action to prevent illegal gold mining in Johannesburg. This will add fuel to allegations of top-level official involvement in gold mining syndicates.

The scale of the disaster at the Langlaagte gold mine is unknown. One report  said 51 miners were down the abandoned mine. So far seven are believed dead with others trapped underground. These tragedies will continue until there is credible action by the state to stop illegal mining.

It is easy to see illegal gold mining activity in the area between Langlaagte and Roodepoort. I brought evidence of this to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee three years ago and the following year the committee visited illegal mining sites. This followed by the establishment of a task team involving the Department of Mineral Resources, the SAPS, state intelligence and industry representatives.

Despite all this involvement there’s been little apparent success in stopping illegal gold mining. It is still possible to find washing tables where illegal gold is separated, and dust covered miners can be spotted loading sacks of concentrate onto taxis along Main Reef and Roodepoort Roads. People close to the activities claim top level official involvement in these activities. With the lack of action in stopping them it is getting increasingly difficult to deny this.

These activities indicate state failure on multiple levels:

- Unpoliced borders allow the easy ingress of illegal miners – most Johannesburg illegal miners are foreign;

- There is no legislation making illegal mining itself a crime. Most people involved in these activities who are arrested are arrested for trespass, illegal immigration or, sometimes, possession on unwrought gold;

- There are multiple holes and tunnels in the area between Langlaagte and Roodepoort. These are rarely, if ever, watched and those exiting arrested;

- There appears to be little action to close down and arrest people working at gold washing tables scattered across the area.

- To be credible, official action cannot be sporadic. It must be vigorous and sustained. It is unconscionable that there has been no move to properly crimminalise illegal mining.

The government must act if it wants to avoid accusations that people in the state apparatus are being paid off to allow this trade to continue. 

Issued by James Lorimer, DA Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources, 12 September 2016