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Illegal miners, security face off

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Hundreds of illegal miners stand their ground and refuse to back off

SECURITY: While a stand-off between hundreds of illegal miners, currently operating in and around Kimberley, and security personnel from a local mining company ended without incident yesterday afternoon, tensions remain high as miners have vowed to return to the site this morning, despite threats that they will be removed. Pictures: Danie van der Lith

WHILE a stand-off between hundreds of illegal miners, currently operating in and around Kimberley, and security personnel of Kimberley Ekapa Mining Joint Venture (KEM-JV) ended without incident yesterday afternoon, tensions remain high as miners have vowed to return to the site of their operations this morning, despite threats of their forced removal.

Following negotiations between police, representatives of the illegal miners and mine security, who were clad in riot gear and backed up by nyalas, while a private helicopter hovered overhead, the miners eventually dispersed at around 5.30pm after hours of standing their ground. However, they made it clear that they would return to their posts early this morning.

According to police spokesperson, Captain Sergio Kock, no arrests were made and no serious incidents were reported after members of the SAPS were called to the scene near Samaria Road at around 7am yesterday morning, when about 200 illegal miners burnt tyres and barricaded the entrance to the mine dumps with rocks, demanding that they be allowed to continue their operations pending the outcome of their appeal against a Northern Cape High Court decision ordering that they vacate the property.

Shortly before dispersing yesterday, the leader of the Kimberley Artisanal Mine Workers (KAMW), Lucky Seekoei, said that they had met with various role-players, including representatives from the Premier’s Office, earlier in the week, where it was decided that they would continue their operations pending the outcome of their appeal.

Despite the apparent outcome of this meeting, Seekoei said that mine security had ordered that they vacate the site, which resulted in yesterday’s stand-off.

According to Johan Lorenzen of Richard Spoor Attorneys, who is representing the illegal miners, his client’s right to the land is in dispute before the Constitutional Court.

However, he added that as a matter of law an application for leave to appeal suspends an order of court. He urged law enforcement to await the court’s decision, warning that legal action would be taken should any harm come to the miners.