Gold worth more than 7.0 billion Rand (about 499 million US dollars) is stolen and smuggled out of South Africa every year, according to Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources Godfrey Oliphant.

He revealed this when addressing the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), the upper house of the South African Parliament, during a debate on illegal mining in the country here Thursday. The theme of the debate was “Advancing our collective efforts to put an end to illegal mining”.

The debate was held following the recent deaths of mostly illegal immigrants or the so-called “Zama-Zamas” at the Langlaagte mine near Johannesburg.

Oliphant said billions of Rand worth of gold is being plundered illegally out of the country through highly organized criminals.

These illicit activities also have a negative impact on the economy and result in significant revenue loss for the State and the mining sector. Accordingly, a study estimated that about 10 per cent, or 7.3 billion Rand, of gold production for 2013 is stolen and smuggled out of the country annually.

Oliphant said scrap metal business owners also had a hand in illegally transporting gold out of the country. We have also noted that some of the scrapyard owners are the ones who are facilitating some of this gold export as scrap, because they seem to be smelting them with their other materials and taking them out as scrap.

He added that dangerous and sophisticated local and international syndicates were mostly responsible for the general illegal mining activities in the country.

Illegal mining is largely fuelled by highly organized, dangerous, well-financed and complex local and international crime syndicates which have up-to-date maps of mining operations. The syndicates operate in liquidated operating and non-operating mines,” he said.

“They mainly recruit unemployed, illegal immigrants providing them with basic survival necessities, while training them on how to access the mine workings.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), the country’s main Parliamentary opposition, has described illegal mining activities in Gauteng Province as untenable.

DA Member of Parliament Michelle Clarke, who shifted the blame to so-called Zama-Zamas, was participating in the debate on illegal mining in the country. She said illegal mining in Gauteng had reached an all-time high and the situation had become untenable.

Clarke said that not only had illegal mining had an impact in Gauteng, but it had become a massive concern throughout the provinces.

“On any given day, it is estimated that over 10,000 Zama-Zama’s are active in Welkom (in Free State Province) and over 3,000 daily in Kimberley (Northern Cape Province) on the diamond ring. This is a great cause of concern.”

Meanwhile ruling African National Congress (ANC) MP Tasnim Motara said the Zama-zamas were not the only people carrying out illegal mining in the country.

“The Democratic Alliance relegates illegal mining to Zama-Zama’s, yet nothing is said about illegal mining currently taking place in active mines, funded and fuelled by capital leeches. Honorable Clarke’s called solutions say nothing to those who have created the mess. All of us need to take responsibility for the crisis. Those wishing to do business must be forced to do so in a responsible manner.”

Source: Nam News Network

News Reporter