Teens found working at 'illegal gold processing lab' in Mpumalanga

A dozen suspects were arrested at the illegal gold processing operation. Stock photo.
A dozen suspects were arrested at the illegal gold processing operation. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Phawat Khommai

Two teenagers have been arrested with 10 other suspects at an illegal gold processing laboratory at Brown's Farm in Barberton, Mpumalanga.

The teens, aged 15 and 16,  were arrested on Wednesday night during an intelligence-driven operation by the Hawks' serious organised crime investigation team, assisted by the national intervention unit, bomb disposal squad, tactical response team, local criminal record centre, SAPS Barberton and SSG Security Services.

Hawks spokesperson Capt Dineo Sekgotodi said information received led to the discovery of the laboratory, where a group of illegal miners were allegedly employed by “two different bosses” to illegally process gold.

Sekgotodi said upon arrival, the sound of hammers could be heard coming from the bush at an identified address.

“The team swooped on the group [and] 10 suspects - five illegal immigrants and five Mpumalanga residents - were arrested. Further information revealed the group was employed by two different bosses, one in Johannesburg and the other in Mpumalanga,” said Sekgotodi.

Sekgotodi said the “boss” in Mpumalanga was also arrested and charged for contravening section 43 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

“The team followed the information on the Mpumalanga boss which led to a nearby house where the suspect was hiding. When penetrating the house, they found a man on crutches who indicated that he had been injured in an illegal mining accident.

“Upon the search of the premises, crushed gold-bearing materials were found, confiscated and the suspect was arrested for possession of the materials ... His vehicle, a silver Ford Ranger double cab, which is suspected to be used in the commission of crime, was also confiscated for further investigation,” she said.

She said an unlicensed .22 hunting rifle, a telescope and live ammunition were confiscated during the search at another house.

“A 20-year-old male was arrested for illegal possession of the firearm and ammunition. The following exhibits were also found and confiscated: hammers, generators, cellphones, gold-bearing material, chemicals and gas cylinders containing mercury,” she said.

The suspects are expected to appear before the Barberton magistrate’s court on Monday.

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