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War may be declared on illegal miners

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A call on Friday by South Africa’s mineral resources minister, Susan Shabangu, for more sustainable methods of sealing up old shafts in a bid to stem the tide of illegal gold mining comes hard on the heels of harsh words from Sibanye CEO, Neal Froneman and images of trapped illegal miners being rescued and arrested.

Speaking on Friday, Shabangu appealed to members of the Gauteng Illegal Mining Stakeholders’ Forum to "strengthen efforts to deal with illegal mining in the province, most specifically in the East Rand and West Rand".

“As more holes and open shafts are discovered, they are sealed, but we need better, more sustainable methods which will close these openings permanently” the Minister said.

According to the DMR it, through the Council Geoscience, has sealed 130 holes and shafts since they have been identified, with the remaining 51 sealed by mines operating in the area.

However, it is not just abandoned mines like the one in Benoni, from which the bodies of two illegal miners were retrieved and 25 other miners were rescued alive and arrested earlier this week.

See also: Illegal miners risk all for South African gold

According to Sibanye Gold CEO, Neal Froneman, illegal mining is well organised in the country, and illegal miners don't only go into abandoned mines.

"They disrupt our operations, they sabotage our blasting over Christmas, they drop our boxes on the ground; it is literally war," he told analysts and journalists at the release of the group's interim results on Thursday.

"It is a bit like gold theft, I would suggest that every mine has got a problem, and it is not just people that are not employed by you that are illegal miners, but some of our own employees are illegal miners. There are practices developing that when they take leave, they sneak back into the mine and they mine for themselves, that is how extensive this is."

"Clearly, access is very well controlled in our industry because of the potential for people to get lost and injured, however, these guys find their way underground, there are very large syndicates that are behind illegal gold that drive this practice, there is lots of money at stake."

And, while the problem is rampant, the police are not really able to help, he added, because they do not have the capacity to underground.

"It is at a level that I don’t think it would inappropriate to bring in the South African National Defence Force, it is way out of control." he said.

However, there are some things that are changing, According to Sibanye CFO, Charl Keyter,  where the police and the courts have come to the fore is in the type of sentences handed down, "previously these guys were charged with trespassing," he said, "now they get more severe sentences."

This article appears courtesy of Mine Web. To read more daily international mining and resources finance news click here.

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