The government is taking decisive action against illegal mining activities. This operation targets the “Zama Zamas,” illegal miners who try to survive by exploiting abandoned mines or sometimes even active ones in dire conditions.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced this week that 3,300 soldiers have been deployed until April 2024 to combat illegal mining activities. According to authorities, these activities are often overseen by gangs, leading to violence.
The problem of illegal miners is not new, as the country has more than 6,000 abandoned mines. However, with the upcoming elections, Cyril Ramaphosa’s government has decided to refocus on this issue. On November 10, Defense Minister Thandi Modise praised the arrest of over 4,000 individuals since the establishment of a special team within the executive branch. Between April and August, approximately 300 suspects were convicted of illegal mining activities.
Legalizing Artisanal Practices
Behind these statistics, it is clear that authorities are targeting miners from neighboring countries of South Africa. The Defense Minister specifically emphasized the foreign nationality of the majority of those arrested. However, some researchers doubt that the problem can be solved in the long term through repression. The government has also announced efforts to develop regulations to legalize artisanal mining practices that can be properly regulated.