In the wake of illegal miners being trapped at an abandoned mine in Langlaagte, south of Johannesburg, over the weekend, the Chamber of Mines (CoM) on Monday said illegal mining remained a serious challenge for the industry and South Africa amid rising unemployment and poverty.

This, in turn, presented negative social and financial impacts, including risking the general safety of illegal and legal miners, as well as rescue volunteers, the negative impact on the environment, damages and losses incurred by operating mines and the introduction of criminal elements into communities, with often heavily-armed illegal miners trespassing on operating mines and setting ambushes and booby traps for employees, security and rival groups of illegal miners.

“The challenges are significant and the chamber recognises that no single stakeholder can address issues related to illegal mining on its own. The industry, through the CoM, and individual companies will continue to work with other stakeholders including the Department of Mineral Resources and the South African Police Services to address this serious challenge,” the CoM said in a statement on Monday.

Illegal mining activities threatened the viability of operating mines, risked jobs and created losses for the fiscus through unpaid royalties and taxes, the chamber pointed out.

“While we have sympathy for the individuals and families, we do believe that the law must be observed, and individuals and organisations must be held accountable,” the CoM concluded.