National effort to curb illegal mining continues apace

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Illegal mining is presently seemingly rated a priority crime, with the SA Police Service (SAPS) supported by an SA Army brigade recording numerous arrests and confiscation of millions of Rands worth of equipment.

One zama zama bust – in Limpopo – on Christmas Eve had the added bonus of the arrest of five “undocumented foreign nationals” – the description government media uses for illegal immigrants.

The bust, led by SAPS Mopani illegal mining team and seemingly without any participation by the SA Army Light Modern Brigade (LMB), targeted a disused gold mine in the vicinity of Selwane village in Limpopo.

Proof positive of the lengths the illegal miners use to protect themselves came in the form of gunfire aimed at mining task team members as they approached the disused mine. Evasive and follow-up action saw police arrest four suspects with a fifth reportedly going underground after shooting at police. An SAPS statement said he was subsequently arrested but his firearm “could not be found”.

Picks, spades, iron digging bars, shovels and torches were seized as well as a bag containing “suspected precious minerals”.

Abandoned mining equipment, groceries, cool drinks and cooking pots indicated there are other illegal miners in the area, according to the statement.

Earlier in December, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) via one of its social media communication officers, reported soldiers confiscated mining, ore recovery and delivery equipment worth over R12 million at undisclosed locations in a 10 day period. During the blitz 360 illegal miners were detained and handed to police.

The Limpopo bust not only stopped illegal mining at one location, it also saw illegal immigrants taken into the SAPS/Department of Home Affairs (DHA) custody chain for eventual return to their countries of origin. The national defence force is active in both these internal anti-crime and sovereignty taskings via operations Prosper and Corona.

The SA Army deployment sees over 3 600 soldiers deployed under the Operation Prosper standing tasking to assist government in what the Joint Operations Division says are “safety and security operations of national importance”. It is set to finish on 31 March.

The SANDF, again in the form of the SA Army, is the major contributor to the ongoing border protection tasking – Operation Corona. This sees 15 companies of regular and Reserve Force mainly infantry units deployed along South Africa’s 4 862 km land border intercepting illegal immigrants and smugglers of cigarettes, liquor, pharmaceuticals and fake designer clothing and footwear.