If it’s not rival groups in a bloody gun battle for control of abandoned mineral ore, it’s loosely held ground collapsing over hapless miners deep under the treacherous belly of the earth.
In short, that has been the simplistic state of South Africa’s illegal mining industry, whose practitioners are called Zama Zamas in local Zulu parlance (literary translated into try, try).
Typically, indifferent regulators and associated bodies are only awakened from their slumber when an accident or something disastrous strikes. Only to revert into their noncommittal comma in no time.
And once again the recent disaster, where illegal miners were trapped in a disused mine in Benoni, a location in Johannesburg, once again, has elicited public sympathy. But one bets their bottom dollar that the publicity might evaporate before one finishes saying the name: Zama Zama.
But if the mining sector has been dismissing the chaotic state of illegal mining as trivial, no doubt, time is ripe to address the matter.
The fact of the matter is safety and security problems are only symptomatic of lack of regulation of small scale mining, or at the very least decisive action by the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), the South African Police Services (SAPS) and other state agents to curb the activity.
Work cut out
According to an interview, a local television station had with one Zama Zama, illegal mining is aided and abated by sharks who make billions of US dollars. With skyrocketing unemployment and a sluggish economy, illegal mining has become a source of income of the last resort for youth. Clearly, the challenge is more complicated than it seems, authorities have their work cut out.