SUNDAY TIMES - Tackle illegal mining by cracking down on buyers: Benchmarks Foundation
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Sunday Times Business By Naledi Shange, 2017-03-07 10:31:42.0

Tackle illegal mining by cracking down on buyers: Benchmarks Foundation

An illegal miner crushes stones using a makeshift crusher as he processes gold-bearing ore at Makulu Gama squatter camp in Krugersdorp. File photo.
Image: SIMPHIWE NKWALI

Police could tackle illegal mining by targeting businesses that buy illicit gold‚ the Benchmarks Foundation said on Tuesday.

Speaking on Radio 702‚ researcher David van Wyk said many of these traders boldly advertised their businesses with “we buy gold” signs outside their premises.

“I cannot understand why they are not [investigating]‚” Van Wyk said.

His comments come after 14 bodies‚ believed to be those of illegal miners‚ were found in Benoni over the last two days.

Police say the killings appear to be due to a turf war between gangs of illegal miners.

Eight bodies were found on Monday afternoon at Unity Street in New Modder on the East Rand. Six others were discovered by a passerby on Sunday.

“It appears that the victims were either killed with a sharp object or shot before their bodies were dumped. It is still unknown where they were killed and the bodies have not yet been identified‚” Lt-Col Lungelo Dlamini said on Monday.

Regulating the illegal mining business could thwart the turf wars and murders‚ Van Wyk said.

“We should create a centralised buying agency for buying gold‚” he said.

Similar measures had been put in place in Zimbabwe‚ where informal miners sold their merchandise to the state.

In South Africa‚ however‚ illegal miners may be afraid to partake in a centralised system because many of these informal miners are foreign nationals without proper documentation.

According to Van Wyk‚ there are around 600 abandoned mines in Gauteng alone. Around 6‚000 exist around the country.

Besides illegal mining‚ scores of disused mines are home to hundreds of informal settlement dwellers‚ he said.

Last week‚ a young boy died after falling into a disused mineshaft in Boksburg‚ Ekurhuleni.

The boy’s family lived close to the shaft at an informal settlement known as Jerusalem.

Van Wyk said such incidents could have been avoided if mining companies had properly closed down the unused shafts.