Johannesburg – The Hawks have intensified their fight against foreign nationals involved in illegal mining activities.
This comes after the investigative unit pounced on suspects in North West and Pretoria for their alleged illicit mining activities.
Two Lesotho nationals operating in North West were found with seven pieces of amalgam weighing 40g with an estimated value of R20 000.
Searches at another location in North West uncovered amalgam weighing 35g valued at R 17 500.
More than R100 000 in cash was recovered from the pair, while 38 rounds of ammunition were seized.
Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale said the two arrests may seem like a drop in the ocean considering the magnitude of the phenomenon.
“The operations aimed at rooting out established illegal mining syndicates will be intensified on a continuous basis.”
Mogale said it was an open secret that illegal mining was the nexus of other serious crimes such as human trafficking of illegal immigrants, who were promised employment and ended up being exploited by their recruiters.
Mogale indicated that investigations were continuing to identify those high up in the value chain.
“These undoubtedly have a negative impact on the South African economy, with billions worth of mineral resources leaving our shores undetected.”
The North West co-ordinator of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, Mere Boase, said the illegal mining activities in the province were of “great concern” to Numsa.
“We are aware of some of these syndicates, which is a worrying factor considering that it does not benefit our community members at all.”
Boase said a number of cases were reported to the police and they were awaiting the outcome.
Mogale also revealed that a group of 36 alleged illegal miners from Lesotho were arrested on Sunday morning in Stilfontein after authorities responded to an apparent turf war among armed factions.
According to Mogale, the district illicit mining task team and local police found a fight between more than 100 illegal miners under way, allegedly over mining turf.
The Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation team was summoned, and the authorities arrested at least 36 suspects, aged between 20 and 42, after they had split into small groups upon discovering the law enforcement presence.
One suspect was shot and wounded in the upper body after he reportedly ignored calls for him to drop his firearm.
Three loaded AK-47 assault rifles, a .303 rifle, a pistol, magazines and various ammunition were seized.
The group was expected to appear at the Stilfontein Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on various charges including conspiracy to commit crime, and the possession of prohibited firearms and ammunition.
The men’s status in the country was also being investigated.