Johannesburg – Six suspects were arrested for corruption, theft, possession of, and illegal dealing in, gold in the mining town of Randfontein, west of Johannesburg, Hawks said on Thursday.
The men, aged between 24 and 35, were arrested just before midnight by the Hawks following a tip-off.
Among those arrested was a mine security guard, who had allegedly taken bribes from the illegal miners. He was found in possession of a large amount of cash, which the Hawks believe was paid to him by the other suspects. The money was also seized.
The guard allegedly offered protection to the "zama zamas", and promised to remain silent about their activities underground, a statement from the Hawks read.
The suspects had allegedly been underground since November 2016 at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu Gold Mine in Randfontein, and were making their way out of the mine when they were apprehended, said the Hawks Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso.
The mine is said to employ about 4 500 workers. It has been plagued with labour violence and strikes. The latest strike came to an end on April 2017 after workers downed tools on March 23 in response to disciplinary action taken against some 40 employees.
Rikhotso said that an investigation into illegal mining at the mine had been fruitful, helping them seize up to R150 000 in gold material, and just over R70 000 in cash. The investigation began in April 2017.
The six are due to appear at the Carletonvile Magistrate's Court on Friday.