How to stop illegal miners from accessing your mine

Posted by Sharon Johnstone on

What is the problem?

South Africa’s mining sector has shrunk considerably since its peak in the early 1980s. As depicted in the figure below, mining contributed more than 20% of the country’s GDP. In contrast, that number has fallen to less than half in recent years. 

Source: South African Statistics, 2015 (pg 15.1 and 6.1)

Source: South African Statistics, 2015 (pg 15.1 and 6.1)

Over this period, nearly 6000 mines were abandoned, and tens of thousands of South Africans retrenched. Although many displaced workers have sought a living elsewhere, some have seen these derelict mines as a business opportunity and operate outside the law to extract any left-over resources. Zama Zamas, or ‘chance-takers’, is the colloquial term given to these nearly 30 000 illegal miners (Martin, 2019, p. 2).

The operations of Zama Zamas are not exclusive to dormant mines, however. Many illegal miners have found footing within the shafts of legitimate mines and are the cause of significant economic damages. Although all types of mines are affected, gold mines are their favorite targets. The Global Initiative for Transnational Organized Crime estimates that Zama Zamas are responsible for at least R14 billion in lost gold production, annually (Martin, 2019, p. 3).

 

Source: Sifile, L. 2018.

Safety is another concern. Zama Zamas can spend upwards of six months below ground on a single expedition and, without appropriate gear, supervision or knowledge, are a danger to themselves and those around them.

When they are above-ground, illegal miners regularly engage in turf wars with rival gangs that involve deadly shootouts, imperiling the lives of anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the crossfire.

Whether it be the loss of life, the theft of valuable goods or the damage done to property, wherever Zama Zamas go danger follows.

With the threat of illegal miners more prevalent now than ever before, how can you protect your mines from invasion? Read on and we will tell you.

How are illegal miners gaining access to your mines?

Zama Zamas gain access into active mine shafts by bribing on-site officials. Once the illegal miners have access to inside information, it is easy for them to infiltrate the premises and avoid security sweeps (Martin, 2019, p. 5). For any mine, the most critical problems to address come from the inside.

What can you do to stop illegal miners from accessing your mines?

A typical response is to request the assistance of law enforcement. However, there is an endemic problem with this approach: corruption. The South African police force is unreliable, and members are prone to bribery (Martin, 2019, p. 6). Illegal mining enterprises use this to their advantage.

 

Managing internal security has proven to be much more effective than outsourcing help from the authorities. After a mining firm spent R366 million on improving its security systems they caught and expelled over 1400 illegal miners (Martin, 2019, p. 7). Although it was an expensive investment, the mine quickly made up for it by avoiding further damages to their resources and infrastructure. 

You might be sweating at the prospect of paying such a large sum upfront, but there are more cost-effective ways of enhancing your mine’s security. By installing an ID-card issuance system, you can gain significant security benefits at an appealing price point. 

How does an ID card security system work?

An ID card system allows cardholders to access the premises of a business. Each card comes with an electronic chip that interacts with a scanner. The scanner recognizes the chip in the card. It sends a signal to an entrance or exit door, instructing it to open if the chip is authorized or to remain closed if it is not.

As a business owner, this gives you the flexibility to:

  • Monitor when and where cardholders enter your business.
  • Remotely control access to specific parts of your business.
  • Set parts of your business to automatically lock for extra security.
  • View activity logs of who has accessed your business, from where and at which times throughout the day

For the above reasons and many more besides, introducing modern security measures is a must for any business operating in uncertain conditions. This is especially true for South African mines. Prevention is the best protection.

Why choose Easi-card?

Easi-card supplies everything a mine would need to set up their ID card security system. Whether you want to outsource printing or purchase an ID card printing machine, we have you covered. In addition, we can arrange for alcohol breathalyzers as an added layer of occupational safety. Should you encounter a snag, we offer round-the-clock support and on-site technical assistance.

Our experience, detailed portfolio and product offerings make us a force to be reckoned within the industry. With the support of the Easi-card team, you will significantly reduce the risk of illegal miners and other unwanted individuals interfering with your operations. Do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to find out more about the measures you can take to enhance your business security.

Protect your investment with Easi-card. Leave the chance-taking to the Zama Zamas.

 

Primary Sources

Republic of South Africa. 2017. Mining: a brief history, Stats SA [Online]. www.statssa.gov.za/?p=9720 [2020, July 24]

Martin, A. 2019. Uncovered: the dark world of the Zama Zamas. Enact. [Online]. https://enactafrica.org/research/policy-briefs/uncovered-the-dark-world-of-the-zama-zamas. [2020, July 24].

Sifile, L. 2018. Zama Zama turf war fears after 7 bodies found in veld. IOL. [Online]. www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/gauteng/zama-zama-turf-war-fears-after-7-bodies-found-in-veld-12727076 [2020, July 24].

Further Readings

Power talk. 2019. Listen: what will it take to legalize Zama Zamas? Power 98.7. [Online]. https://www.power987.co.za/news/listen-what-will-it-take-to-legalise-zama-zamas/. [2020, July 24].

Minerals council South Africa. 2020. Brief history of mining in South Africa, Mining for schools. [Online]. https://www.miningforschools.co.za/lets-explore/gold/brief-history-of-gold-mining-in-sa. [2020, July 24].

 

By R. J. Steens | Updated 23/10/2020

 

 

 

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