Security forces in South Africa have ramped up a clampdown on illegal miners to curb the criminal menace.
According to reports, dozens of soldiers and police searched shacks, seizing mining equipment in the Soul City settlement near Kagiso, west of Johannesburg.
The provincial police commissioner told the media that more than 70 people, mostly undocumented migrants, were held over two days in the area, which lies near disused gold mines.
Some were arrested for drug dealing and possession of illegal firearms, he added.
Mining contributed nearly 60% of South Africa’s exports in the first half of 2023.
Illegal gold mining has been a continuing threat in South Africa for decades, with poverty, unemployment and crime driving the underground industry. The activity has hurt the country’s investment pull and cut into mining companies’ profits, mining industry representatives say
Along with high unemployment and illegal immigration, rampant crime has become a key political issue ahead of the general elections next year.
President Cyril Ramaphosa told a passing-out ceremony for 1,400 new police recruits in the central city of Kimberly on Thursday that the country was “tired of crime.”.

He revealed that over 250,000 arrests were made and 3,200 firearms seized since authorities launched a crackdown on criminality in May.
Commonly known as “zama zamas” (meaning “those who try” in the Zulu language), thousands of informal miners operate in mineral-rich South Africa.
The Johannesburg region in particular is dotted with slag heaps, shafts and deep trenches left by generations of miners, whose arrival in a gold rush in the 1880s led to the birth of the city.
Many informal miners are from other countries, living and working in arduous conditions in clandestine pits.
Their activities are seen as a source of criminality by locals.
Access to the old mines is often controlled by gangs that sometimes fight for territorial control.
South Africa’s overall mining profits slipped by more than $5 billion in the last financial year, while the country might have less than 30 years of a viable gold industry left without renewed investment, according to a new report released by accounting firm PwC.

by Isaac Clottey

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