Zama zamas unlikely behind Bree Street explosion: department of mineral resources

While there has been speculation that the disastrous explosion in Johannesburg was caused by illegal mining, the department of mineral resources and energy says it is unlikely

Bree Street after the explosion.
Bree Street after the explosion.
Image: Antonio Muchave

The possibility of Wednesday's explosion in the Johannesburg CBD being linked to illegal mining has been ruled out by the department of mineral resources and energy (DMRE).

There has been speculation that zama zamas could be responsible for the incident which left one person dead, 48 injured and damaged Bree Street and vehicles on the road.

But DMRE spokesperson Ernest Mulibana told TimesLIVE this was unlikely.

“The department’s mining inspectors confirmed there are no old mines in the area where the explosion happened and therefore the department would not be doing investigations regarding the explosion. From our records, that area has no mining underneath it. Even if there were zama zamas, they would have been far from the area,” he said.

Mulibana could not confirm if illegal mining in surrounding areas could have led to the explosion.

“Even if illegal miners were there, our stance on illegal mining is that it is a criminal activity that compromises the health and safety of the community, which puts our infrastructure at risk and undermines our security,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Johannesburg city centre had underground infrastructure including electrical lines and water tunnels, and sewer and gas pipelines, said University of Johannesburg (UJ) department of urban and regional planning lecturer Dr Jackson Sebola-Samanyanga.

“There could be a lot of factors involved. There are measures put in place and the application of processes which are sent to other stakeholders so all the infrastructure is aligned and the same safety regulations are followed.”

While the cause of the explosion is unknown, Sebola-Samanyanga said infrastructure in the city was old and deteriorating. 

“Johannesburg is an old city and all those forces are exerted on it. I don’t want to speculate regarding shifting occurrences [earthquakes] in the natural space which could have an impact on what is happening.”

There are also rumours that homeless people could be living in underground tunnels, but Sebola-Samanyanga said it was unlikely.

“The tunnels under the city are generally stormwater tunnels and water runs through them all the time. It is unlikely someone could live in those tunnels.”


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