Call to get tough on illegal miners

PARLIAMENT'S mining committee has called for drastic measures against illegal miners, including jail terms of 10 years for anyone who trespasses into a mine shaft.

PARLIAMENT'S mining committee has called for drastic measures against illegal miners, including jail terms of 10 years for anyone who trespasses into a mine shaft.

The committee yesterday called on the Hawks to smash the illegal mining syndicates based in Johannesburg, and said they would change the law so that anyone found dealing in unprocessed metals would face 10 years in prison.

R1million fine

The committee also proposed a R1million fine for mining houses who fail to keep their explosives safe.

The committee last month visited four mines plagued by illegal mining. At one mine, MPs were told they could not go underground because illegal miners would pounce on them and hold them hostage.

MPs found that syndicates were recruiting workers from Lesotho "on the basis that they are coming to work for the mines".

The recruitees often discover they are working as illegal miners once they are underground, where they were sometimes kept for three months, said committee chairperson Fred Gona.

"Illegal miners are heavily armed, engage in shootouts with mine security and are not afraid to take on the police," said Gona.

At Barberton Gold Mine, which spends R1million a month on security, illegal miners are armed with shotguns, AK-47s, 9mm guns and R1 and R5 assault rifles.

Mineworkers, mine security and police have been so "threatened and assaulted" that the police now refuse to confront illegal miners.

At Coronation Coal Mine in KwaZulu-Natal, the committee heard that corrupt police were in collusion with the illegal miners.

Retrenchments have also caused problems - residents of Harmony Mines G Hostel sell liquor and firearms, the committee heard.

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