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Gloves off in illegal chrome mining war

Feb 12 2017 06:00
Erika Gibson

The gloves are off in the war against illegal chrome mining in Limpopo with a mining company fighting to compel the police to stop such activities.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko and Berning Ntlemeza, the head of the Hawks, will this week have to explain in court why they should not be arrested for contempt of court.

The police’s “intentional” delay of the legal process was brought to an abrupt halt by the Supreme Court of Appeal, and the court dismissed the appeal by Nhleko and Ntlemeza with costs.

VDH Holdings, one of the legal chrome mining companies in the Winterveld region near Burgersfort, as well as other interested parties, have been trying to get the police to put a stop to what they see as a crime syndicate operating in the area.

The police have withdrawn all previous appeal applications in the drawn-out legal battle.

The police therefore admit that they have no further defence and that the original order of the Pretoria High Court – that the police be compelled to prevent the illegal mining operation by stopping ore trucks departing from the property – must be enforced. 

Wynand Venter, VDH Holdings’ attorney, says he will this week ask for a court order in terms of which Nhleko and Ntlemeza must either give reasons in a court for their conduct, or report to the Pretoria Central Police Station to be arrested.

“We are going to ask the court to imprison the two in accordance with a contempt order. We are also going to ask for a costs order against the police, as well as against Nhleko and Ntlemeza personally,” he said.

According to Venter, the police failed in their constitutional duty to protect the state and its citizens and their interests, as well as their duty to prevent criminal activity that strips the land of its mineral riches.

It is estimated that the illegal miners have been removing R1 million worth of chrome ore per day and the state has lost more than R100 million in income tax.

The ore is then stored by buyers in warehouses and washed before it is apparently exported.

Among the buyers are Chinese nationals, other foreigners and local mining companies.

As part of the operation, 20 to 30 trucks line up daily to transport the chrome ore.

Louis Nel, a security consultant who assisted the applicants, said: “They don’t pay taxes, they aren’t regulated, they don’t comply with any health or safety regulations and don’t have to rehabilitate the mine afterwards.”

Mere metres from the legal mine, the illegal mine workers conduct their activities without any fear of apprehension.

Since City Press’ sister newspaper Rapport reported on the issue, the illegal mine workers abruptly removed all the equipment from the mine last Monday.

The next day, the police attempted to do a half-hearted raid, but did not seize any equipment or take any person into custody.

The same night, the illegal mine workers returned and mined right through the night.

Nel said they had “consistently maintained that proper policing would deter the illegal mine workers and over the past few days we’ve seen that – at the very least – their activities are being disrupted.

“The fact is there has to be a police presence – night and day. The equipment has to be confiscated and access must be prevented.”

From a helicopter, up to 150 heavy earth-moving vehicles associated with the illegal mining can be seen higher up in the mountain.

According to Venter, this indiscriminate mining does irreparable harm to the environment, while legal mine workers have to comply with strict environmental regulations.

Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter:

hawks  |  berning ntlemeza  |  nathi nhleko

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