africa|coal|diamonds|energy|explosives|gold|infrastructure|mining|resources|safety|security|service|services|supply chain|sustainable|technology|solutions|environmental|infrastructure|operations

Opinion: Illegal mining is a criminal activity

Department of Mineral Resources and Energy media relations director Ernest Mulibana

Department of Mineral Resources and Energy media relations director Ernest Mulibana

13th July 2023


Font size: - +

In this article, Department of Mineral Resources and Energy media relations director Ernest Mulibana writes about the scourge of illegal mining in South Africa and its impact on the economy.

As a country endowed with a wealth of minerals, South Africa continues to battle the scourge of illegal mining and trafficking of precious metals, diamonds and stones, as well as other complex organised crimes. These organised criminal activities bleed our economy and often undermine the human rights of various communities.

The recent reports on the tragic death of at least 31 suspected illegal miners believed to be Basotho nationals in Welkom and 17 others in Boksburg, are a grim reminder that illegal mining puts in danger the lives of not only those to participate in it, but also the communities in which it occurs.

Research shows that these acts of illegality have interlinkages with other organised crimes such as human trafficking, drug smuggling, money laundering, illegal immigration, illegal weapons and explosives, violent crime and environmental degradation.

It is important to unequivocally state that illegal mining is a criminal activity, regardless of where it is being conducted. Those who engage in such activities must face the full might of the law, hence the South African Police Service has been at the forefront, arresting and charging suspects.

The scourge of illegal mining is of grave concern to the government and should be to all South Africans. Illegal mining has a broad impact on national security as it compromises the country’s infrastructure, territorial integrity, the authority of the State, mineral sovereignty, economic security and the safety and security of citizens. 

Some media reports and public debates seem to suggest that illegal mining occurs only at abandoned or disused mines and that it relates only to artisanal and small-scale mining activities. That is not entirely the case. Illegal mining activities occur on both licensed and unlicensed areas, as well as operational and disused mines. Some mining companies spend a lot of resources strengthening security in and around their operations.

Furthermore, there is a clear difference between artisanal and small-scale mining and illegal mining activities. The former, as outlined in the policy framework, requires a permit which can be obtained through application at the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), while the latter is nothing but pure criminality.  

It is further worth stating that illegal mining activities do not only occur in areas of precious minerals such as gold, chrome, diamonds, coal and others. We constantly receive and attend to public complaints on illegal mining of minerals such as sand, particularly in the rural provinces. Although this is often at a small scale, it is a concern for government.  

As such, illegal mining not only poses a serious security threat to the nation, but also disrupts the operations of a sector that significantly contributes to the country’s socioeconomic wellbeing. It is estimated that in the gold sector alone, more than R70-billion of revenue is lost through the smuggling of this commodity.

While all stakeholders, particularly those in the mining sector, must play an active role in eliminating this debilitating scourge, the government continues to explore legally attuned efforts to address illegal mining.

Such efforts include strict enforcement of various legislations that are relevant to the sector. In this regard, a multi-departmental body, the National Coordination and Strategic Management, comprised of representatives from the DMRE, the South Africa Police Service, Intelligence Services and the Department of Home Affairs, has been established. The body will allow for a seamless and coordinated collaboration in law enforcement operations to uproot any criminal activities related to illegal mining.

It is public knowledge that the DMRE, in consultation with mining communities and other stakeholders, has developed and gazetted the Artisanal and Small Scale-Mining policy. The policy seeks to, among other key tenets, formalise and enable the artisanal and small-scale mining industry to operate optimally, and ensure the sector is sustainable and contributes to the economy through taxes, job creation and royalties.

As we move ahead in our implementation of the programme, it is worth noting that the policy has been well received within the industry, and since its publication for implementation in March 2022 we have had several engagements with organised bodies on ensuring the implementation considers their inputs.

Furthermore, we have received several inquiries from individual businesspeople who have shown keen interest in participating in the artisanal and small-scale mining.

Given the complexities and involvement of transnational criminal syndicates in illegal mining, the South African government is working with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in exploring innovative solutions to prevent and combat illegal trafficking in precious metals, including technology-based solutions that strengthen the integrity of the precious metals supply chain. At the tenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, South Africa pushed for and supported a resolution that would galvanize international efforts to address illegal mining and trafficking in precious metals.

However, we recognise that there is room for improvement. Therefore, as the custodian of the country’s minerals, we call on all citizens to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies and actively participate in fighting the scourge of illegal mining in South Africa.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter


Latest Multimedia


Booyco Electronics
Booyco Electronics

Booyco Electronics, South African pioneer of Proximity Detection Systems, offers safety solutions for underground and surface mining, quarrying,...

John Deere (Pty) Ltd
John Deere (Pty) Ltd

In 1958 John Deere Construction made its first introduction to the industry with their model 64 bulldozer.


Latest Multimedia

sponsored by

Resources Watch image
Resources Watch
29th November 2023

Option 1 (equivalent of R125 a month):

Receive a weekly copy of Creamer Media's Engineering News & Mining Weekly magazine
(print copy for those in South Africa and e-magazine for those outside of South Africa)
Receive daily email newsletters
Access to full search results
Access archive of magazine back copies
Access to Projects in Progress
Access to ONE Research Report of your choice in PDF format

Option 2 (equivalent of R375 a month):

All benefits from Option 1
Access to Creamer Media's Research Channel Africa for ALL Research Reports, in PDF format, on various industrial and mining sectors including Electricity; Water; Energy Transition; Hydrogen; Roads, Rail and Ports; Coal; Gold; Platinum; Battery Metals; etc.

Already a subscriber?

Forgotten your password?







sq:0.144 0.179s - 95pq - 2rq
Subscribe Now