21 suspected illegal miners were recently arrested by the police and are now faced with charges before various courts. This follows a sting operation conducted between Wednesday, the 23rd of June and Sunday, the 27th of June, this year.
According to a statement by the police, the operations took place in Dientjie, Pilgrim’s Rest and Sabie in order to defuse the lethal activities carried out by suspects who put their lives as well as of others at risk as they continue mining illegally. During these Stimulus Operations, some suspects were found to be minors whilst others were illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The formations who participated in the operation include members from the Mpumalanga Provincial Visible Policing Component who collaborated with Lydenburg, Standerton, Middelburg, Secunda, Ermelo and Komatipoort K9 Units as well as crime prevention members from the Ehlanzeni District.
The police said the suspects are facing charges of possession of gold bearing material as well as contravening of the Immigration Act. The police said they are working in collaboration with the Immigration Officers as well as the Probation Officers as some of the suspects are in the country unlawfully and eight of them are minors between the ages of 15 and 17, from Mozambique. Several items believed to have been used during the illegal mining activities such as oxygen cylinders, a generator, cutting torch, chains, spades, and step ladders have been seized.
The police have vowed to continue with their relentless efforts to bring these illegal acts to an end and also send out a stern warning to those who keep on stealing minerals as well as vandalising infrastructure in the process. At some stage, when police enforce the law in those old and disused mines, they are often met with attacks from the suspects.
The Acting Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Major General Thulani Phahla, has welcomed the arrests made whilst strongly condemning this behaviour which has been noticed throughout the province.
“These acts, not only do they cripple our economy but also place the lives of these individuals at risk. It is also shocking to learn that young children from neighbouring countries have also been sourced to participate in these illegal activities. This is worrying hence we will never tolerate such lawlessness to prevail neither will we stop such operations. ” said General Phahla.