High time for cops to come down hard on illegal mining
Why do mining companies have to take on almost sole responsibility and expense of keeping their assets safe?
Gold miner Pan African Resources had an interesting line in its interim results, one that was easy to miss in the deluge of information about its new tailings project and growth options.
Pan African, which is traded on the JSE and London’s Alternative Investment Market, noted its spending on security had shot up 88% in the first six months of its financial year to end-June 2019. It cost R33m to combat illegal mining and pay once-off costs to address community unrest issues, up from R17m a year earlier.
Considered against revenue of R1.4bn for the period, it does not sound a lot of money, but considered in the light of spending to secure the company’s assets having nearly doubled, there is a disturbing underlying problem.
Illegal mining in SA is rife. It’s not just gold mining and it’s not just the theft of minerals. The most notable example of this was at the Gloria colliery recently, when more than 20 people invaded the underground workings, stealing copper cables, setting off a methane explosion.
Mining companies have taken on almost sole responsibility and the expense of keeping their assets safe. There have been reports of arrested illegal miners being released with barely more than a slap on the wrist. They are soon back to their old activities.
The government, through its agencies of the police and justice, have to step up efforts to stop the scourge that costs the mining industry billions of rand in lost minerals, lost production, stolen infrastructure and security.
Specialist police units have to be set up in mining areas, a ban on scrap copper dealings and far tougher sentences for perpetrators would go a long way to help.