South Africa
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Gauteng’s abandoned mines will take 17 years to be completely closed

Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe says it will take 17 years to completely close Gauteng’s known abandoned mines to stop illegal mining.

Mantashe said the country needed a dedicated team to clamp down on illegal mining.

“Over the past three years, 135 holes were closed in the Witwatersrand. In the West Rand alone, 52 were closed. 

“In terms of our statistics, 20 holes are outstanding. At the rate we are going, it is going to take us 17 years to close the known holes,” said Mantashe. 

“Check the [number of] holes that have been closed and what is outstanding. It will give the NCOP a better picture of what is happening rather than say nothing is being done. There is a lot being done.”

According to police minster Bheki Cele, the attack on, and rapes of, women in Krugersdorp have heightened understanding about illegal mining. Eight women were raped in West Village while on the set of a music video shoot.

The rapes sparked violent protests in the West Rand.

“This is not a new phenomenon at all. In 2019, the first special tactic team in Free State responded to criminality that took place in Welkom,” said Cele. “That team is still there, moving around when there are problems.” 

Cele said Gauteng was not the only province in which illegal mining took place. He said there was also illegal mining in Mpumalanga, Limpopo, the North West, Free State and Northern Cape.

“Some will argue it is caused by unemployment but in essence, syndicates are running criminality activities around abandoned mines,” Cele said.

Earlier this week, Cele said the Krugersdorp rape suspects had been identified. He said about 350 people were arrested in connection with illegal mining in the area.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) confirmed seven suspects who appeared in court on Wednesday had been linked to the Krugersdorp gang rapes.

The suspects have been charged with multiple counts of rape, robbery with aggravated circumstances and being in the country illegally.

NPA spokesperson Phindile Mjonondwane said 14 suspects had been identified and more arrests were possible.

“There is a prima facie case against all 14 accused and the charges relate to the incident that happened to the crew shooting a music video in the West Rand.”