CAPE TOWN – Deputy Mineral Resources Minister Godfrey Oliphant said on Thursday the South African government had taken a decision to gradually regularise the activities of illegal miners on a merit basis.
Illegal mining is prevalent in South Africa, and forms part of an underground economy, with spates of violence between the operators, called "Zama-Zamas" and deaths resulting from accidents underground.
"The only way to minimize and combat illegal mining is to legalize it. We have taken a decision that says where it is safe to do so, let us legalize," Oliphant told delegates at the Mining Indaba.
"We will deal with each situation as it comes. The dangerous ones are in Gauteng because they go underground, they mine the pillars, and as you've seen the number of corpses because they are gangsters as well. People fight for their turf. So that is a difficult one for us."
In the face of an increase in illicit activities, particularly on diamond fields, Oliphant last month struck a deal with Kimberley-based Ekapa Mining, which operates De Beers' historic mining areas, that illegal miners would be allowed to mine about 400 hectares on Ekapa properties. This was on condition that they became legalized and operated within the law.