Thursday 7 November 2013

Illegal miner arrested in Free State, South Africa.

A man, described as a Zimbabwean national, has been arrested for illegal mining at Welkom in Free State, South Africa, according to the South African Police Service. He was apparently one of a number of men discovered by a patrol on Tuesday 5 November 2013, working in an area of dunes, the other men fleeing and escaping the patrol. A quantity of mining equipment was also seized, an three other men were later arrested at Thabong, to the east of Johannesburg, on migration related charges.

The approximate location of the illegal mining operation. Google Maps.

South Africa has a long history of strife over mining, largely relating to the exploitation of resources by large foreign companies and the relatively poor remuneration of mineworkers and communities that have lost land to mines, disputes that are intimately connected to the long term struggle against against the Apartheid system in the country. However illegal mining is seen as a relatively new problem, which authorities have yet to catch up with. As well as being a loss of revenue to the state, illegal mines do not comply with South Africa's environmental and health and safety laws, and can therefore present a threat to communities close to the operations, as well as miners employed at the sites, particularly if gold is being worked, since the quickest and cheapest way to separate gold from ore involves the use of (highly toxic) mercury. Aggregates (sand and gravel) used in the building industry are also considered a problem, as indiscriminate mining can lead to the destruction of natural habitats and farmland, as well as hastening soil and river erosion.

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