172 suspects arrested as fight against illegal mining continues

23 November 2023 - 13:57
By Shonisani Tshikalange
One of the backyard gold mining 'plants' at the Angelo informal settlement in Boksburg. File image
Image: Ziphozonke Lushaba One of the backyard gold mining 'plants' at the Angelo informal settlement in Boksburg. File image

The Hawks have arrested another 172 illegal mining suspects.

Hawks head Lt-Gen Godfrey Lebeya on Thursday briefed media on the Hawks' successes during the second quarter of the 2023/2024 financial year.

An illegal mining disruptive operation at Zwartkop Zone 1 in the Northam area on August 3 resulted in the arrest of five suspects transporting chrome without a permit.

Chinese national Cheng Liang Tom Chen, 48, was among those arrested.

“During the operation, the team seized an excavator, a truck with two trailers loaded with chrome, a tipper truck and two motor vehicles to the value of more than R5m.”

Chen had been released on bail and was linked to another case of illegal mining while out on bail that occurred on August 3 2022 in the Northam area.

“Through the investigation by the Hawks, a warrant of arrest was issued for Chen and he was rearrested on July 17 2023. He pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal mining in the Thabazimbi regional court,” Lebeya said.

He was sentenced to an R80,000 fine or two years' imprisonment.

In another case, an operation on August 18 at Scott Shaft in Stilfontein resulted in the arrest of 30 alleged illegal miners.

Among those arrested, two were also charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

Another two were charged with possession of unwrought gold to the value of about R100,000.

“The team recovered three rifles, ammunition, unwrought precious metals, food items, medicine and gold refining paraphernalia. One suspect was shot and wounded during a shoot-out with the police and was taken to hospital for medical attention. An inquest docket is being investigated after one suspect died soon after he was found hanging from a shaft.”

Lebeya said all 30 suspects appeared in the Stilfontein magistrate’s court on August 21 on charges of illegal mining, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, illegal possession of gold and conspiracy to commit an offence. They were denied bail.

The matter was postponed to November 28 for ballistics reports.

On drugs-related matters, the Hawks seized drugs and drug laboratories valued at R11m, with 52 suspects arrested, of which 30 are South Africans and 22 foreigners.

Lebeya said four drug laboratories were dismantled with seven arrests made.

“It is imperative to educate our communities to stop the demand for drugs while law enforcers stop the supply.”

Lebeya said cash-in transit (CIT) heists continue to be a threat to the economy and the Hawks, in collaboration with private organisations, continue to strengthen the fight against these crimes.

For this quarter, he said 48 CIT arrests were made and two convictions were secured.