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Illegal miners decry lack of progress

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Regarding the application process, Phetla said that the relevant forms and documentation could be found on the department’s website

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WHILE efforts to regulate the operations of hundreds of illegal miners in the vicinity of Kimberley are under way, concerns have been raised over the licensing processes being followed by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), with various stakeholders reaching consensus that the current attempts were proving inefficient at best.

As part of ongoing initiatives to legitimise many of the illegal mining operations in the Northern Cape, the South African Diamond Board (SADB) recently conducted a workshop on the rules and regulations of the industry at the Kimberley City Hall.

This followed a week after a visit to the Province by the Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources, Godfrey Oliphant, when he gave his assurance that government was making a concerted effort to assist in the application and issuing of small-scale mining permits.

At the time, the national spokesperson for the DMR, Solomon Phetla, said that apart from co-ordinating the workshop, which saw participants receiving insight into the various aspects of the industry, including health and safety regulations, among others, the department had also prepared the relevant environmental documents, while the consultation process was also under way.

Regarding the application process, Phetla said that the relevant forms and documentation could be found on the department’s website.

While the DMR’s national office acknowledged receiving media enquiries, giving its assurance that it would provide clarity on the matter, the department has, as yet, failed to provide any clarity on the ongoing matter.

More than a month after Oliphant’s visit, spokesperson for the Kimberley Artisanal Mineworkers (KAMW), Lucky Seekoei, said that while the process of regulating the miners’ operations, through the issuing of permits, continued, there were a number of issues pertaining to their applications to the DMR that needed to be addressed.

“The minister said that the whole process should take about 30 days to complete, but there are still a number of problems caused by the fact that the current regulations do not accommodate nor make provisions for artisanal miners,” said Seekoei.

“One of these issues stems from the fact that we are submitting applications for prospecting licences when we should be applying for permits to mine.

“Since the tailing mineral resources (TMR) are movable assets, there is no need for prospecting to determine whether there are diamonds to be processed.

“We need the permits and rights to mine but are currently being sent from pillar to post.”

Spokesperson for the Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture (KEM-JV), Gert Klopper, said that the company was also very disappointed by the lack of progress subsequent to Oliphant’s visit in mid-January.

When asked about the latest developments regarding relations between the legal and illegal mining operators, Klopper said that there wasn’t much of an update, at this stage, with the current situation very much the same as it was a few weeks ago.

“Not much has changed since our last remarks,” he said, referring to the KEM-JVs statement following the SADB’s workshop in Kimberley.

“We are disappointed by the slow, or lack of, progress with regard to commitments made at the time,” said Klopper.

Meanwhile, further legal action has been taken against the illegal miners after Eskom made an application to the Northern Cape High Court to keep unwanted elements off its property.

This is according to a spokesperson for the electricity supplier, Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg, who confirmed the application, adding that additional information could not be provided while the matter was before the court.

“Eskom made an application to the Northern Cape High Court to prevent illegal miners from trespassing on Eskom property in Kimberley on the Boshof road due to safety and security concerns,” Jansen van Rensburg said.

“Since the matter is sub judice, we cannot disclose more information at this stage.”

Seekoei said that the members of the KAMW would be challenging this ruling, as they have previously done with a number of similar rulings.