Closing redundant shafts mitigates illegal mining

10th November 2023 By: Trent Roebeck - Features Reporter

Closing redundant shafts mitigates illegal mining

CLOSING FOR GOOD Jet Demolition workers sealing and capping a redundant mineshaft

Amid the ongoing threat and prevalence of illegal miners in South Africa, sealing legacy mine shafts and access points is becoming increasingly necessary to prevent illegal access and to ensure the safety of legitimate mineworkers in neighbouring underground mines, says multi-disciplinary and demolition company Jet Demolition.

Shuttering disused mine shafts and access points also promotes the safety of community members in close proximity to mines, says Jet Demolition contracts and project manager Kate Bester.

Reportedly, extreme violence or intimidation are also being witnessed in the vicinity of illegal mining operations.

Illegal miners are involved in violent skirmishes with security services and other illegal miner gangs over turf, and are often armed or guarded by armed personnel.

Sealing disused mine shafts also inadvertently contributes to saving the lives of those who wish to pursue illicit underground mining by preventing them from gaining access in the first instance.

“Illegal mining is born from desperation. People are willing to risk their lives by going underground to try to recover pockets of unmined material, as well as copper cable and steel shaft infrastructure.

“Mining houses typically require [shaft sealing] services for two main scenarios: firstly, to seal a shaft permanently as a mitigating factor, thereby preventing unauthorised access by illegal miners; and secondly, to rehabilitate the mining footprint fully, rendering the area safe for public use,” she explains.

Mineshaft sealing and capping projects are deployed mainly to maintain optimal compliance with environmental management plans, regulations of the Mine Health and Safety Act of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), broader compliance with other provisions of the DMRE, and to ensure that client-specific requirements are met.

Further, Jet Demolition works with a health and safety organisation to ensure that mineshafts are vacant below natural ground level, thereby ensuring that no illegal miners, who have infiltrated a redundant mineshaft, are trapped underground once shafts have been sealed.

Various safety measures ensure that Jet Demolition personnel – who are tasked with filling and capping an open, redundant mineshaft that extends several kilometres underground – are protected from falling using certified rigging and safety equipment.

Bester tells Mining Weekly that the company has recorded an increase in demand for its legacy shaft sealing and capping services, having completed the sealing of several mineshafts in Gauteng, to date.

“We’ve sealed a few shafts that had to be equipped with monitoring access points as part of an acid mine drainage project in the Western, Central and Eastern basins of the Witwatersrand goldfields,” she concludes.