The future of artisanal and small-scale mining

Artisanal and small-scale mining can contribute to economic growth and job creation, writes Ernest Mulibana

Recent public debates triggered by the tragic incidents linked to illegal mining not only lifted the lid on the debilitating effects of this phenomenon, but
also promoted mischaracterisation of the scourge as “zama-zamas”.Illegal mining is nothing but a criminal activity. There are no two ways about it. It is a criminal activity that not only compromises the health and safety of communities in which it occurs, but also puts at risk the integrity of our infrastructure and undermines our national security.

The illegal miners who are incorrectly dubbed zama-zamas are armed to the teeth and ready to fight and kill anyone who stands in their way. It is clear that their activities have nothing to do with putting food on the table, but pure criminality that bleeds our economy and often trample on the human rights of various communities

This cannot be characterised as zamazama efforts. It was actually deplorable to hear some calling on the government, specifically the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), to “legalise” such operations. It would be a travesty on the rule of law to even think of embarking on such an illogical exercise.Whilst the fight against illegal mining activities is championed by the government’s justice, crime prevention, and security cluster, the DMRE and other stakeholders, including community members and civic organisations, can contribute in the efforts to eliminate the scourge.To this effect, the DMRE’s contribution is currently two-fold

Firstly, the department is committed to rehabilitate all the 6 100 derelict and ownerless mines in the country. In a peer-reviewed article published by the MassachusettsInstitute of Technology (MIT) Press, the University of Cape Town’s scholar Francis Wilson records that mining activities in South Africa began shortly after the discovery of diamonds in 1867. That is more than a century and a half ago.

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