SAAF part of North West illegal chrome mining bust


The SA Air Force (SAAF), in the form of two helicopters, was one component of a multi-organisation, anti-crime task force that abruptly ended a multi-million Rand illegal chrome mining and smuggling syndicate near Rustenburg.

The task force assembled to tackle the illegal chrome operation, in addition to an Agusta A109 light utility and Oryx medium transport helicopter, in all probability on the strength of 17 Squadron at Air Force Base (AFB) Swartkop in Centurion, included elements of SA Police Service (SAPS) Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), other SAPS specialists and private security companies.

This multi-pronged team  used airborne assets to pounce on Batlhako Mining’s Ruighoek chrome mine outside Rustenburg last Thursday in an operation that saw chrome worth an estimated R2.5 million seized.

“During the operation two primary syndicate members were arrested and three suspects wounded after allegedly attempting to evade arrest by driving away from the crime scene, triggering a high speed chase and shootout,” SAPS Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso is reported as saying by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

In addition to the large quantity of chrome recovered, police confiscated four Interlink trucks, a tipper truck, three excavators, two diesel tanks, two vehicles and a 9 mm pistol with an obliterated serial number.

Two suspects were due to make their first appearance today (11 April) in the Mogwase Magistrate’s Court facing charges of illegal mining, while the case against the three wounded suspects has been handed to SAPS Detective Services.

Provincial Head of the DPCI Major General Patrick Mbotho hailed the collaborative nature of the operation and thanked all involved. “Mining is the highest contributor to the North West economy, this makes it important and absolutely worth protecting,” he said by way of a warning to other illegal mining syndicates.

In another bust in the same area last August, four people were arrested for illegally mining chrome worth nearly R1 million.