South Africa's Sibanye declares war on illegal gold miners
By Ed Stoddard
WESTONARIA, South Africa (Reuters) - Illegal gold mining has plagued South Africa's mining companies for decades, robbing the industry and state coffers of billions of rand through smalltime pilfering as well as networks run by organised crime.
Now, with unmined output dwindling and proving more diff cult to extract, one firm has had enough: diversified precious metals producer Sibanye Gold says that it will clear all illegal miners from its shafts by the end of January next year.
"We will have them out then," Sibanye's Chief Executive Neal Froneman told Reuters. His campaign slogan is "Zero Zama", after the Zulu for illegal miners, "zama zamas" or "taking a chance".
A Gold Fields spin-off formed in 2013, Sibanye is the first company to set itself a deadline to stop the practice and has laid out 200 million rand ($15 million) to make it happen.
The challenge is immense, however. Sibanye may win most of the battles but it will lose the war in a country beset by joblessness, poverty, crime and porous borders, experts say.
Most zamas are undocumented immigrants from neighbouring countries that have long provided migrant labour for South Africa's mines who are now being laid off. The syndicates who support them and traffic the illegal metals are well-funded, well-established and highly dangerous, security experts say.
"Sibanye can get it down by 90 percent, but they will never eradicate it completely," Louis Nel, a security consultant who works on the fertile mining West Rand area near Johannesburg, told Reuters. "You must never underestimate the ability of an illegal miner."
The stakes are high. Continued...