Artisanal Mining, A Blessing and A Curse, Sekhukhune South Africa
By Mmathapelo Thobajane
Voice note 1
Hello I am Mmathapelo Thobajane , I am an activists in the Bench Marks Community Monitors school and a member of SEJN. Community Monitors have been monitoring the new “illegal” chrome mining activities in Sekhukhune land.
“illegal” chrome mining is taking place in many villages in Sekhukhune Limpopo. Investors from outside the community are making deals with local people to dig around the villages for soil containing chrome. These are very big investors and they operate secretly and are not legal.
The chrome is taken to Maputo in Mozambique and from there exported to Korea and China.N
Voice Note 2
The poor in the village have joined in, they dig by hand. They sell this chrome for R300 or about 30 dollars at time.
Mputi Thobejane from Modimolle reports
“the citizens of Ga-Maroga village dig illegal chrome because they have a problem of unemployment and skills. 75% of these are ladies.”
Katlego Malesa reports
“I talked to an unemployed man who I found digging the ore in his own yard in Makgopa village, yesterday. , When asked why and whether he is aware of the danger and health risks to himself, his family and the neighbourhood, he said he really does not care because he does not have a choice”
This is very dangerous practise. There is no protective equipment. We know of people from the village who have died. The one died when he was trapped by a truck. The other died when the hole he was digging collapsed and he was buried by the soil. Many people have suffered injuries
Voice Note 3
Now people in our community are starting to dig everywhere, they to dig in their own backyard. They even dig beside the roads which are in use.
This illegal chrome mining is destroying our environment. The holes that are dug are not covered up and is a danger especially to children and cattle in the village.
Moshabi Selowa reports
“ l meet two gentleman from the Mampa community who claimed to have lost their cattle. Mr Ramoshaba and Mr Phasha feel disappointed by the illegal chrome mining and say since last year cattle owners have lost about 25 cattle in all. The other issue is that digging in their fields results in livestock being unable to cross over the grazing land. They even fall inside the deep holes dug. Chrome is mined at the river source which doesn’t allowthe river to flow anymore.
Many sites which are important for our heritage are being destroyed. People are digging in grave yards. Sacred mountain sites where our initiations schools are located are being mined
Voice Note 4
Some in the community want to organise this mining in a legal way with support from government and legal investors. However illegal investors from outside have divided the community and created conflict .
Gilbert Moela reports
“Residents of Monametse Community are at loggerheads over the illegal chrome mining taking place in the village. Over the past weeks the community held several meetings with a hope of uniting residents to be one and strong with similar goals. However the hunger for money and power has seen some of the community members being bribed (especially those with close ties to Induna) by investors to support them into defying community’s wishes of looking for a legal investors”.
Voice Note 5
The government and police is very aware of this illegal mining.
For a long time, they did nothing. Recently they confiscated trucks and machines, but often people get them back. It has been reported in the local newspapers that many traditional leaders, government officials, politicians and police are benefiting from this illegal mining.
“The “illegal” mining that was helping put food on the table has been dealt a harsh blow by the law enforcers. Police have confiscated machines used to help dig out the chrome thus leaving the community stranded and hopeless. Most villagers are complaining about the treatment they are getting from the government and its departments. With mining as the main source of employment in Sekhukhune District everyone was dependant on the Illegal chrome mining for survival. According to my source community members will protest if they are not allowed to mine,
The department of Minerals Resources is also refusing to issue communities with mining/ prospecting rights. Again the government continues to fail the communities by flirting with the biggest mining companies.”
The government mining department has asked people to register as companies and cooperatives. But they were not serious, because they are aware that people in the community do not have the very high registration fees to register.
Voice note 6
What is the future
The most important reasons why we cannot solve this problem is that the big political leaders are very close to the corporations. The smaller leaders, some traditional leaders now are benefiting from the illegal investors and the community is divided because some are earning immediate cash.
The only solution is for government and all sections of the community to come together and talk about ways in there can be community ownership over all mining both big and small.
So how will government respond.
Will they stop illegal mining with police action in response to the demand of the big corporations.
Will they go slow on criminal investors and allow the looting and destruction to continue.
Or will government talk to the community and negotiate a deal to legalise legal small scale chrome mining..
And how will the community act. Will they succeed to unite under a single demand or will they continue to be divided by the illegal investors. What action will they take to persuade government to act in their interest.