Illegal mining operations threaten jobs and the environment

An aerial photograph of the illegal mining operations taken three years ago, in March 2015. According to the plaintiff, it's much worse now.

THE stark reality of illegal mining operations is that the long term ramifications thereof have a disastrous impact on the environment, as well as imposing a direct threat on the jobs and livelihood of workers in the legal mining industry.

The owner of a legally owned and operated sand supply company, operating within the AbaQulusi municipal area, based just outside of Vryheid, has raised the issue of illegal mining operations in the area after his initial reports appeared to have fallen on deaf ears three years ago. In those three years, the illegal mining operations have continued, causing great concern for the environment as these operators have no responsibility when it comes to the environmental impact or rehabilitation procedures which are pivotal in the responsible operating of a mine.

“They are digging up municipal land with absolutely no regard or consideration for what they are doing to the environment,” he states.

Aside from the long term impact on the environment, the three illegal mining operations that have been pointed out are a direct threat to the livelihood of miners working within the frame of the law.

“This type of business is very competitive and the price structure for the various types of sand leaves very tight profit margins when all aspects of mining operation, as contained within the Terms and Conditions of the Mining Permit for the Department of Minerals and , in some cases, a Water Use Licence from the Department of Water and Sanitation, and has no qualms about destroying the environment in the process with no intention of rehabilitation, then this makes the ‘playing field’ for the local sand suppliers very uneven as, without the responsibility of rehabilitation, they can provide the sand at reduced prices, which then threatens the livelihood of those suppliers who operate within the law… They are operating without the necessary permits…”

The matter was recently brought to the attention of AbaQulusi mayor, Jerry Sibiya, who forwarded the details, including aerial photographs of the illegal mining areas taken three years ago to the relevant department and has assured us that he will provide us with an update as soon as he receives the necessary feedback.

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“We are becoming very concerned and worried,” added the mine owner, “as our operation has been so adversely affected that the retrenchment of our staff is fast becoming an imminent reality. We cannot sell the sand at the same price as our so called ‘opposition’ as our overheads are much more than the illegal trade.

“We pay our taxes and have all our staff registered for UIF, etc. We’ve even considered going to Carte Blanche, the newspapers or AfriForum in the hope that someone will be able to assist us in this matter. This matter was already reported to the Mineral Resources a few years ago…”

  AUTHOR
Elaine Rodway

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