The illegal mining invasion at Thungela Resources is becoming the new normal

ByKristen Amber

May 31, 2022 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


To get a perception of how advanced illegal mining has come to be in South Africa, choose a look at the photograph down below and simply rely the quantity of automobiles.

This is an unlawful mining operation at the Thungela Methods Khwezela Colliery Kromdraai web site in eMalahleni, Mpumalanga.

That these miners are able to work relatively undisturbed is an indictment of SA’s legislation enforcement and justice units. Thungela has been to court various periods and secured interdicts supposedly halting the illegal miners from operating.

The challenge is receiving the law enforcement to implement these interdicts, which illegal miners wave off contemptuously and continue their plunder.

Image: Equipped

In reply to a statement from shareholder activist team Just Share criticising it for its handling of a poisonous spill at Kromdraai, Thungela responded that illegal miners had been behind the incident.

Read: Thungela tackles poisonous coal spill following federal government get

Moneyweb asked to see evidence of this and Thungela arranged a presentation showing drone footage of miners occupying and working with no hinderance over an area spanning quite a few sq. kilometres.

The drone footage shows at the very least 10 excavators and more than a dozen dump trucks operating more than an place of about a person sq. kilometre.

That does not depend trucks on the street shipping and delivery stolen coal to potential buyers in and all-around the region. This is a large space to patrol, and unlawful operators look to have no issues gaining accessibility to and from the web site.

“This is a refined procedure, very well organised and properly-capitalised,” says Mpumi Sithole, government head of company affairs at Thungela.

Not a smaller operation

This is no zama-zama operation, where illegal miners pan previous gold workings for the odd gram or two. This is a substantial company, and it has grow to be a attribute of mining throughout the place.

The Minerals Council of SA estimates that the state loses R7 billion a 12 months as a result of illegal mining, but that obviously does not depend a lot more complex operations these types of as those at Kromdraai.

Minister of Mineral Assets and Electrical power Gwede Mantashe estimated that illegal mining price tag the place R41 billion in 2018 alone. That figure is most likely significantly increased now.

Take into account that illegal miners have stolen or vandalised h2o administration products worth R500 million at Thungela alone. That gear should be changed, and shielded from even more hurt.

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“We’ve seen a spike in illegal mining activity since 2019, and what we also recognize is how sophisticated these unlawful miners have become,” states Sithole. “We’ve also seen a spike in vandalism in excess of this period of time.”

Which begs the question, how is it that the unlawful miners can so overtly trespass and steal without the need of hindrance?

There’s no basic answer, but below-resourced law enforcement seems to be at the root of it.

Mining mafia

The sort of mafia functions noticed on constructing web-sites across a lot of sections of the region have also commenced appearing on mines.

Mine security is normally no match for these gangs that are armed, organised and harmful.

In Thungela’s scenario, the environmental costs of illegal mining are plonked on its doorstep. Just Share states unlawful miners would not have obtain to the site, nor the ability to lead to problems experienced the mined land been rehabilitated in accordance with the law.

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Thungela replies that it was in the procedure of rehabilitating the land, and experienced designed superior progress, prior to all that do the job was undone by the unlawful miners. It has invited Just Share to pay a visit to the web-site and see for alone.

Thungela now finds itself the issue of a felony investigation more than acid mine seepage at the Kromdraai web-site.

Office of Drinking water and Sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau verified to Moneyweb that a felony investigation is underway, just after the organization was issued with a directive by the department in February about the harmful spill at Kromdraai.

The environmental hurt from illegal mining at Kromdraai 

Graphic: Provided

Thungela thinks its disclosure bordering the spill has been exemplary, as CEO July Ndlovu told shareholders at the company’s AGM final week. The 2021 annual report mentions a prior toxic spill at Kromdraai in February 2022, which had decanted into the Kromdraaispruit because of to the failure of a beforehand sealed culvert underneath the decant sump.

“Contributing to this incident was the vandalism and theft of infrastructure expected to pump the polluted drinking water from the decant sump to the liming plant for further more therapy,” says the yearly report.

Mildred Tshoga, specialized products and services supervisor at Khwezela Colliery, suggests the combination of heavy rains and illegal mining at the web site resulted in pressure establish-up and caused the shaft seal to breach.

Acid h2o decanted from the formerly sealed culvert and built its way downstream to a ‘dosing station’ the place the drinking water pH (acidity) amount is stabilised, and weighty metals eliminated.

The downstream results of unlawful mining

Picture: Equipped

“The Just Changeover and the arrangement all around local weather improve is a little something we require to be occasion to, but if you look at what is taking place at the Kromdraai area – we experienced rehabilitated this spot, but all that work has now been undone, meaning we have to rehabilitate once again – you can see the challenges we have to deal with,” claims Sithole.

The Democratic Alliance says South Africa requirements a unit of police experts, acquainted with mining law and empowered to choose on even intensely armed mining mafias.

This was soon after Richards Bay Minerals declared pressure majeure in 2021, stating it was not able to meet sure contractual obligations thanks to ongoing assaults on its personnel and gear. Related promises were being produced at the Orion mine in Prieska and the Nuco chrome mine in North West.


Often the disruptions are in the type of neighborhood calls for for contracts, jobs and cash, and from time to time it is a scenario of brazen theft.

The trouble appears much more systemic than the authorities seems eager to acknowledge.

Other nations, this sort of as Ghana and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have applied the military to snuff out unlawful mining.

As a pure coal engage in, Thungela recognises its environmental pursuits are under the microscope, and will remain so till its functions are inevitably shuttered. But African fossil gasoline producers complain they are becoming requested to comply with Western environmental expectations at a time when the continent is clawing its way out of poverty, using the incredibly similar sources of strength as used by the colonial powers in their race to create. Now the procedures of the recreation have changed.

Sithole suggests the organization has submitted a rehabilitation prepare to the Office of Water and Sanitation, and is awaiting acceptance.

Lengthier expression, the environmental hurt at Kromdraai seems to be a legislation enforcement concern. The law enforcement are likely to have to provide critical muscle mass to a issue that obviously threatens to wreck not just the setting, but SA’s long-term mining prospective buyers.

Hear to Dudu Ramela’s job interview with Robyn Hugo of Just Share (or go through the transcript listed here):


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