Tackling illegal mining key to sustainability of the mining industry

Mining Sustainability & Security

28th February 2024

By: Tasneem Bulbulia

Senior Contributing Editor Online


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Illegal mining is one of the biggest constraints threatening the sustainability of the South African mining industry and, while this challenge is considerable, it is not insurmountable.

There are several measures that stakeholders can and are pursuing to mitigate the impact of illegal mining. This was the key message outlined by speakers in Creamer Media’s ‘Mining Sustainability and Security in the South African Mining Industry’ webinar, held on February 28.

Facilitator and PwC director Andries Rossouw emphasised that the country’s mining industry still had the potential to provide considerable value to all its stakeholders; however, collaboration with other countries to address value chains that were supporting illegal mining, and between government and business in the country to provide the requisite security capacity and to tackle the operating challenges, was needed.

The threat of illegal mining was said to be multifaceted, with speakers identifying causes ranging from the country’s inequality and socioeconomic environment; host communities sometimes being involved in this or supporting activities; individuals from regional countries entering and participating; and high-level crime syndicates running lucrative, sophisticated operations and often exporting stolen resources.

Mining and allied security professional Nash Lutchman said there was a lack of legislation or will to modify legislation to deal with illegal mining and an apathetic government in terms of deteriorating security conditions surrounding the country’s mining industry.

He emphasised that mining companies had to pursue security strategies that had the proper capacity to deal with the challenge at hand, for example, stronger protection to tackle crime syndicates.

He also called for the industry to work together and align their security strategies to tackle the challenge as a collective.

DRDGOLD CEO Niël Pretorius reiterated the need for collaboration, and also called for the holistic inclusion of communities in the process. He emphasised that, in this vein, investments must be long-term, sustainable and effective.

Digby Wells Environmental CEO Graham Trusler pointed out that this issue was not unique to South Africa but was playing out globally in places where the rule of law and order were not maintained.

He mentioned that South Africa's mining industry was also not as well-regulated as it previously was, contributing to the increase in criminal activity.

He posited that South Africa could learn a lot from other countries in Africa in terms of the risk factors to be cognisant of, and how to properly close mines to prevent illegal activities.

Trusler said there must also be a space for smaller stakeholders that wanted to mine legally, and to create ownership for these.

South African Police Service Serious Organised Crime Investigation provincial commander Brigadier Hennie Flynn emphasised that addressing the threat of illegal mining required an all-of-government approach, with all departments to play their part. This would prevent a fragmented approach to tackling criminality, he averred.

This must be coupled with a multidisciplinary integrated public-private partnership, building on already existing ones, he indicated.

Further, Flynn said major benefits could be derived from tightening up ports of entry – firstly, to prevent entry to those individuals participating in illegal mining in the country, and secondly, to prevent exports of illegally sourced resources, with a bulk of stolen goods noted to be leaving the country via ports of entries.

He also advocated for the fostering of strong local, regional and global cooperation, as well as strengthening mechanisms and strategies to successfully address the threat, with specific reference to strong investigative and intelligence capabilities.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online



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