South African police on Tuesday arrested 41 Zimbabweans, one Mozambican and one South African for illegally mining chrome ore worth more than R1 million in Mecklenburg, Limpopo province.
In addition to breaking mining laws, the Zimbabweans and Mozambican have also been charged with illegally entering South Africa.
The gang was arrested in Ga-Pasha village as security authorities intensify the crackdown on illegal miners. Equipment worth over R170 000 was seized.
Chrome ore has become a target of mining gangs including South Africans, Mozambicans, Zimbabweans and sometimes Pakistani nationals in Limpopo province.
Authorities intensified the illegal mining crackdown following the recent death of 11 Mozambicans, Zimbabweans and South Africans in the province.
These died when an illegal mining shaft they were working in collapsed during heavy rains.
Limpopo police spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Malasela Ledwaba said the provincial illegal mining task team was out in full force.
“The 42 foreign nationals and one South African citizen are expected to appear before the Mecklenburg Magistrate’s court tomorrow (Thursday) facing charges of illegal mining and contravention of the Immigration Act,” said Lt Col Ledwaba.
“The suspects were apprehended during a joint intelligence operation conducted by the members of the provincial illegal mining task team, provincial organised crime unit together with the RR Undercover Security Company at Ga-Phasha village under Sefateng mine jurisdiction in Mecklenburg policing precinct at about 11.30pm on Tuesday evening”.
He said the police swiftly reacted to information about illegal mining activities taking place in the area. The police found the suspects busy mining chrome ore at the mine without authorisation.
He said the suspects ran away and hid in the nearby bush and a small tunnel.
“The scene was cordoned off and 43 suspects were ultimately apprehended,” said Lt Col Ledwaba.
“In addition, the police confiscated 12 generators and 10 jackhammers valued at R170 000 and chrome ore estimated to be worth more than R1 million.
“The male suspects aged between 18 and 43 are 41 undocumented Zimbabweans, one Mozambican National and one South African citizen”.
Limpopo provincial police commander, Lieutenant General Thembi Hadebe said they will stop at nothing in ensuring that the perpetrators of crimes are arrested.
She said the operation to stop illegal mining was continuing across the province.
The incident comes a few months after four Zimbabweans were among the 21 suspected illegal miners whose bodies were discovered in a mineshaft in Krugersdorp, Gauteng, South Africa in November last year.
In September 2021, South African emergency workers retrieved 11 bodies of Zimbabweans who died after a generator they were using in a disused underground mine exploded in Benoni, some 35km outside Johannesburg.
It is understood that the group which included 15 people, among them Zimbabweans and Mozambicans, entered the mine on August 27 of the same year and were using the generator for lighting and drilling.
The group reportedly died of suffocation while a few who managed to escape made a report to the police.
The mine is located in the Springs area of Benoni.- state media