Ten-day Light Modern Brigade blitz nets 360 illegal miners and equipment worth millions

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The Presidential deployment of soldiers to assist police in curbing South Africa’s seemingly ever-burgeoning illegal mining sector is paying dividends with SA National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers attached to the SA Army Light Modern Brigade (LMB) confiscating all manner of mining, ore recovery and delivery equipment worth over R12 million at undisclosed locations in a 10 day period.

The deployment is under the auspices of Operation Prosper, a tasking described by the Joint Operations Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) as “safety and security operations of national importance”. By and large it sees elements of the military, mostly infantry, operational in support of police anti-crime efforts.

The latest Prosper deployment, with over 3 600 soldiers mobilised, started on 18 October and is set to end on 31 March.

In the 10 days between 29 November and 9 December, soldiers arrested 360 illegal miners from Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, with some as young as 15, Joint Operations Lieutenant Dan Mokhachane reports on the “disruptive dominant operations flushing out illegal miners in multi-disciplinary operations nationally”.

The list of confiscated equipment includes pendukas, described as “used to crush minerals from rocks”; “stampers’ pots”; grinders; cutting torches; drilling machines; water pumps; generators; and “heavy duty scales” as well as explosives “sticks/super power” and firearms in the form of an air rifle and pistols. Aldo on the list are four trucks, three of them tippers, and a tractor/loader/backhoe (TLB) as well as an unspecified amount of alcohol and two corpses – “confirmed murdered”.

Apart from the SA Police Service (SAPS) and SANDF, other government agencies, departments and entities involve in the nation-wide anti-illegal mining deployment are the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) via its immigration section, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) as well as municipal police from metros.