business: Solidarity Calls for Reinstatement Of Police Unit
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Solidarity maintains that the reinstatement of this specialist unit, which previously focussed on the illegal possession, smuggling and trade in substances such as gold and diamonds, is essential for combating illegal mining in South Africa.
In addition to the reinstatement of the specialist unit, Solidarity also proposed to the committee that stricter and more specific legislation should be implemented for illegal mining. According to Paul Mardon, head of Solidarity’s division for occupational health and safety who did the presentation in parliament on behalf of Solidarity, the legislation needs to focus specifically on the problem of illegal mining. “Legislation that currently relates to this issue is very general in nature and rather focuses on organised crime, and that is exactly why more specific legislation is needed for illegal mining,” Mardon explained.
Solidarity also proposed that a study be done about the structural stability of mines that have been the target of illegal mining. “Blasting work is done by highly qualified engineers and must comply with the necessary safety standards. The same safety standards and processes are not, however, followed by the illegal miners, which could lead to unstable structures in mines,” Mardon said.
According to the presentation made by Solidarity in parliament today, illegal mining is already highly organised and it is not only limited to gold mining, but also involves diamond, platinum and coal mines. There are indications that employees of different mining companies are involved in illegal mining activities and in some cases they assist illegal miners in gaining access to the mines. In addition, there are indications that employees even give logistical support to illegal miners and even that legal employees, with specialist expertise, also themselves participate in illegal mining.
According to Solidarity, the illegal mining activities result in large financial losses for mining companies and cause increased safety risks. “Mining companies can incur severe financial losses due to the illegal activities, which could eventually even threaten job security, while lower income for mining companies also means lower income for the state,” Mardon said.
Mardon emphasized that a new solution to combating illegal mining is urgently needed. “Several unsuccessful efforts have already been made in the past to combat the problem of illegal mining and according to a report released by the Institute for Security Studies in 2007, the conviction rate of illegal miners is only about 38%.”
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