November 19, 2017

Making illegal miners think twice


Effective physical perimeter barriers keep illegal miners at bay

Effective physical perimeter security barriers are the first line of defence for mines to safeguard their assets and protect their employees from illegal miners.

If mining companies had been dismissing illegal mining as a fleeting phenomenon, recent developments should compel them to reassess their stance. This is because of a steep rise in illegal mining activities, on both disused and operating mines, in Africa, as the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) observes in its Fact sheet on illegal mining. In particular, in South Africa, the situation has reached crisis proportions, judging from developments that have unfolded recently.

The risks

The risk which mines face is two-fold: first, danger to employees and, second, theft, loss or damage of their assets.

  1. Safety

What should be of great concern to mines is that, increasingly, illegal mining is becoming more militarised, as reports of escalating outbreaks of violence between members of rival groups fighting for control over an area in South Africa demonstrate. And so, mining companies should be wary of dealing with illegal miners who are prepared to use dangerous weapons to pilfer their assets. These illegal miners can easily take advantage of vulnerable miners.

  1. Assets

According to the According to According to the Chamber of Mines of South Africa, illegal mining accounts for between 5% and 10% of yearly South African mining production. Clearly, this accounts for a huge loss of income to mine operators. In 2013, illegal miners made $5bn out of gold mining and $4bn out of Platinum Group Metals (PGM). With recent incidents that have been reported, a good guess is that recent statistics can reveal an astronomical rise.

The Institute of Security Studies (ISS) notes in its Fact sheet on illegal mining: “The growth in illegal mining, which is now happening on a large scale nationally, could be attributed to the combination of a difficult socioeconomic climate and limited resources at the disposal of law enforcement agencies, such as police, immigration, border controls and prosecuting authorities.”

The burden on mines

Nevertheless, whether law enforcement agencies play their respective roles effectively or not, entirely, the buck stops with mining companies, as their assets are the ones that are vulnerable. One of the methods mines can consider is using physical perimeter barriers.

Physical perimeter barriers

When it comes for physical perimeter barriers, mines have a host of solutions for various applications at their fingertips, thanks to new innovations. Typically, physical perimeter barriers and fences comprise the following: sliding gates, boom gates, security fencing, bollards, turnstiles, road blockers, razor mesh and wall spikes.

Requisite product features

Intruders, two steps ahead of their targets, normally do done their homework thoroughly before striking. So, it is one thing to have a security barrier, and totally another to have an effective security barrier. Thus the most important feature of security barriers is the ability to withstand heavy crashing.

The best products are the one that have undergone vigorous testing and are certified that they can withstand crashing under extreme conditions. In addition, they should have quality operational and safety features.

Dust, heat and harsh elements associated with mining can speed up wear and tear. Therefore, physical barriers should have high resistance to corrosive substances.

Ongoing maintenance

Of course, mining companies should not be left to their own devices after installation of perimeter security barriers. Failure may leave their assets vulnerable. For this reason, managing the ongoing maintenance is central.

What’s best for us?

The main determining factors in the selection of physical perimeter barriers are the perceived magnitude of risk and the environmental needs. This would define how products fit the bill.


Thanks to advances in information technology, physical perimeter barriers can be integrated with staff/ contractors identity management system, perimeter intrusion detection, CCTV surveillance and monitoring, vehicle license recognition, personnel body scanners, vehicle scanners, explosive detection as well as thermal imaging cameras.

All told, the least mines would loath to experience is disruptions to their operations, due to manageable security lapses, as they are progressively ramping up production.

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