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Mine guards run for their lives

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Mine security visited the site to investigate allegations of copper theft on the property at the Kenilworth mine at time of the incident

TENSION: Emergency services were called out to the Kimberley Equestrian Centre on Friday, after three De Beers mine security officials were injured after the vehicle they were travelling in was set alight. Picture: Danie van der Lith

THE POLICE are investigating charges of attempted murder after three De Beers mine security officials were injured after the vehicle they were travelling in was set alight along Samaria Road on Friday.

The security officials fled towards the Kimberley Equestrian Centre, where they took refuge, after they were also allegedly attacked with spades.

Eyewitnesses said the security officials incurred injuries to their heads and faces.

They were transported by ER24 to hospital for medical treatment.

Parts of the bakkie were burnt to ashes while the tyres were completely destroyed in the fire.

The mood remained tense throughout the day after a bulldozer moved onto the site to repair a damaged pipe, where illegal miners prevented access to the mining area.

De Beers spokesperson, Nomonde Sikhundla, said that mine security had visited the site to investigate allegations of copper theft on the property at the Kenilworth mine at time of the incident.

“The security officials were inside the vehicle when it was set on fire. The matter was reported to the police. The identities of those involved in the attack have not been confirmed,” said Sikhundla.

Ekapa Mining communications manager, Gert Klopper, stated that they had notified the police after the De Beers vehicle was set alight.

Police spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Dimakatso Mooi, said that the police were investigating a case of attempted murder and malicious damage to property.

“It is alleged that this (Friday) morning three men were attacked by a group of people who burnt the bakkie that they were driving and assaulted them with spades when they tried to run for their lives. All three victims are currently in hospital for medical treatment. No arrests have been made,” said Mooi.

Spokesperson for the Kimberley Artisanal Mineworkers, Lucky Seekoei, denied that any of their members were responsible for the attack.

“We were all at the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court to show solidarity with the miners while their bail application was being heard at the time of the incident. Thereafter I attended a meeting at the municipality. I have no clue what transpired. Our members are disciplined and peaceful,” said Seekoei.

He added that they were also not aware of any incidents of copper theft.

“We work hand-in-hand with the police and report anyone who is found in possession of stolen goods.”

The secretary of the Northern Cape Progressive Business Forum, Kagisho Nkomo, called for urgent intervention from the Department of Mineral Resources, Kimberley Ekapa Mining, the police and Sol Plaatje Municipality to resolve the current impasse.

“We have been supporting the informal miners for a long time. If a solution is not found as a matter of urgency, this ticking time bomb will explode into a bloodbath. We managed to convince all the parties late on Friday to enter into a ceasefire over the weekend,” said Nkomo.

He added that they were assisting the miners in speeding up the process of the awarding of mining permits from the Department of Mineral Resources.

“Once the mining permits are issued, all our problems will come to an end. The miners can stop being harassed by mine security and the police. These miners are only trying to put food on the table, they are not killing anyone.

“The business forum promotes radical economic transformation in the mining industry, where black miners find it difficult to enter the market. The mineral resources under ground belongs to the state and not to any mining company. In fact, we are being persecuted on our own land.”

Nkomo indicated that he had met with municipal officials on Friday to discuss the haphazard manner in which the eviction of the miners were taking place.

“It is not being implemented as per the court order or the demarcated area. These poor miners will be homeless once they are evicted.”

He stated that the miners were obvious suspects for any wrongdoing. “We do not know who is behind the burning of the bakkie.”

Nkomo said that the miners would agree to allow Ekapa Mining access to the mining area at the Swedish Housing Company site, to repair the mortar pipe, on condition that they returned the miner’s tools that they had confiscated.

“No mining could take place for the past two weeks due to these restrictions. It is a dire situation for both parties. The ball is in Ekapa’s court – they will be allowed to fix the pump if the miners are allowed to return to work.”

He explained that mining could also not continue if the pipe was not repaired.

“The bulldozer that was sent to the grounds at the Swedish Housing Company site had to turn around as it was inciting the artisanal miners. The situation remains volatile.”

The police have requested anyone who may have information about the burning of the vehicle to contact Lieutenant-Colonel Nicholas Mtongoana on 082 260 0882.