A look inside illegal mining in Matholeville
Community members of Matholeville informal settlement near Roodepoort are calling for government to allow illegal mining in the area to continue as they say it decreases crime.
On Wednesday a raid was conducted in the informal settlement by the infrastructure protection unit of the City of Johannesburg‚ the Johannesburg Metro Police‚ SAPS‚ Home Affairs and the Hawks.
Sibusiso Shange‚ a resident who sympathises with his community said that the illegal mining reduces crime.
"By doing this‚ they are destroying the economy of this area. How must we feed our families? We are unhappy as a community but there's nothing we can do. Since these [illegal mining] operations started things are better. There's hardly crime here because [residents] are making a living. We live off it‚ one way or the other we all benefit. The police often come after months and unannounced‚" he said.
Connie Muringa‚ a mother of four‚ from Bulawayo‚ Zimbabwe‚ accused the Roodepoort police of being thieves.
"The police are taking things that are not part of the raid. They are taking the bulk soap I bought to take back home. I don't know what else they took. They are thieves - they steal our phones and ask for bribes‚" she charged.
Another resident‚ Sinothando Mlonyeni‚ was also angry at the harassment that they receive from the police.
"The police must stop taking our stuff‚ if they come for the raid‚ then our money and food has nothing to do with it. They come into our homes and threaten our lives‚ we can't differentiate them from thugs‚" said Mlonyeni.
According to Colonel Andre Laing‚ spokesperson for the SAPS‚ the police found explosives in the area which are used for mining.
"The illegal miners go into the mine shafts and get the gold using explosives‚ grind with a tool called the phenduka‚ wash it on the James table‚ burn with gas bottles‚ refinery phase. Then the final phase is when the buyer comes to buy the nuggets‚" said Laing.
He added: "A muddy structure called the James table is used to refine the gold after being illegally mined. We are going to destroy the houses used for storage of the gold contraction. They have special shacks used to store the bins used to store the gold concentrate.
"The last time we came‚ we could easily get inside but now they have reinforced the shacks‚ so it's harder to get inside. This is used to store the 'phenduka' tool used to crush the gold concentration. The gas bottle used for burning the gold is stored in a toilet-looking shack. They use a special salt and other chemicals to burn it‚” said Laing.
The gold is mined from abandoned mine shafts‚ namely Sol Plaatjie information settlement‚ Durban Deep‚ three sites around Matholeville and Dunusa‚ he said.
Laing said police will continue with these operations around the places identified as notorious illegal mining spots.
Home Affairs was also on the ground dealing with undocumented individuals.
"Our mandate is to arrest undocumented people. There's a lot of foreigners here and we want to verify their status. The few people we have in the vans don't have passports‚ and others don't have legitimate ID books. In most cases they don't have work permits‚" said Heidi Malesa‚ spokesperson for Home Affairs’ immigration services.