Some mining companies collude with zama zamas - SAHRC

2015-08-20 20:14

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Johannesburg - Some mining companies collude with zama zamas (illegal miners) when it was not commercially viable to formally use mines belonging to them.

That's according to a report by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

The report said companies sometimes "warehoused" a mine, instead of properly closing it down.

"Unregulated artisanal mining [independent mining] primarily takes place at mine sites that no longer see active operations by the formal mining sector.

"Sometimes these closures occur because of the fluctuations in the commodity prices and thus the owners terminate operations for a period in order to wait for prices to change, making sale or operations more viable," the SAHRC said in a statement on Thursday.

"There are companies that sometimes use 'warehousing' as a way to entice zama zamas into their closed sites to mine for product that is no longer financially viable to mine... and then collude with zama zamas to sell that product through legal channels, thereby evading tax."

It said the problem where cessation of operations happened in one area of a mine, while other areas within the mining right were still operational, had to be addressed.

"The commission... recommends that steps are urgently put in place to secure the necessary financial resources for proper closure requirements and rehabilitation."

'Very thin line between legal and illegal'

It said further studies needed to be done to trace the value chain of illegally mined precious metals.

"There is a very thin line between legal and illegal when it comes to moving, processing and selling illegally mined gold."

The commission's report followed a complaint and a subsequent hearing in Kommagas, Northern Cape, over an "artisanal mining tragedy" that happened at the Bontekoe mine.

In 2012, a tunnel at the temporarily closed De Beers Bontekoe mine site collapsed, resulting in the deaths of several informal miners.

"While there was confirmation that an investigation [by the mineral resources department] had commenced, each time the community tried to establish how far it had gone, [they] were informed that their concerns needed to be reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS) as all the activity on the site was 'illegal mining'."

'It will not go away through brute force'

It said the hearing "revealed" that in South Africa, artisanal mining "is not legally recognised, despite its growth and the potential opportunities it offers, economically and socially".

"Illegal artisanal mining will not go away of its own accord or through brute force. Lawlessness will mount, if the issue of illegal mining is not confronted," the SAHRC said.

"The commission recommends that in order to pursue a path of economic inclusion... there is a need for further research that identifies the size, shape, and scope of artisanal mining in the country.

"Without any comprehensive framework for improving the practices of artisanal mining, current characterisation simply as “illegal”, will have the effect, in terms of the panel’s prediction, of making artisanal mining more dangerous rather than causing it to disappear."

It said there was a need to "explore opportunities" for a framework partnership between zama zamas and large scale mining, particularly on those sites under the control of major mining houses that are no longer being used.

There also needed to be "engagement" into the development of a framework for "direct access to historically mined sites under the control of the state".

The SAHRC recommended that a final report into the Bontekoe mine incident be made available to the relevant communities, and a plan be put in place to deal with similar incidents that could possibly occur in other places around the country.

Read more on:    sahrc  |  johannesburg  |  illegal mining

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