REPORT OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ON THE
OVERSIGHT VISIT TO HARMONY GOLD MINE ELAND SHAFT IN WELKOM, DATED 7 JULY 2009.
The Select Committee on Economic Development having undertaken an oversight visit to Harmony Gold Mine Eland Shaft on the 19 June 2009, reports as follows:
1. Aim of the visit
On 10 June 2009, the Select Committee on Economic Development unanimously agreed to visit Harmony Gold’s Eland Shaft to assess and familiarise itself with the tragic death of illegal miners. The Committee’s intention in exercising its oversight role was to engage the mine management, hostel dwellers and the Department of Police. The Committee visited the hostel to identify problem areas in relation to measures to prevent unauthorised persons from gaining access to abandoned mines. The Committee also wanted to see how best Parliament could intervene in improving the safety record of mines in South Africa.
Select Committee on Economic Development
Hon. F Adams [Chairperson], Hon. E C Van Lingen (DA), Hon. B A Mnguni (ANC), Hon. M L Moshodi (ANC), Hon. S S Chen (DA), Hon. M C Dikgale (ANC), Hon. K A Sinclair (COPE), Hon. M C Maine (ANC), Ms N G Dinizulu (Committee Secretary) and Mr M Erasmus (Committee Assistant).
Department of Minerals and Energy
Mr P Bezuidenhout: Principal Inspector of Mines; and Mr D Msiza: Deputy Chief Inspector of Mines.
South African Police Service
Mr D R Mokone: Cluster Commander - Welkom; Director S Muller: Station Commissioner; Mr R J A Earle: Superintendent: Crime Prevention; Mr D M Mongali; Mr L J Tsuuene: Provincial Head Detectives; Mr Mashego: Provincial Commissioner; Mr Kgotile:Captain and Mr A S Foley: Commander Detective.
Harmony Gold Mine
Mr A Khuzwayo: Harmony Gold Management; Mr E Van Rensburg: Management Security; Ms E Cilliers: Technical Services; Mr H E Mashego: Human Resources Executive; Mr A Buthelezi; and
Mr P K Mohale: Group Human Resources Leader
National Union of Mineworkers
Mr C Kwaza: Regional Treasurer; Mr N Siqwala: Regional Deputy Chairperson; Mr P Hlabizulu: Deputy Secretary for Health and Safety; and Mr M Masukela: Deputy Chairperson for Education.
3. Overview and Proceedings
The Department of Minerals and Energy gave a short briefing to the Committee which was followed by extensive discussions.
4. Briefing by Department of Minerals and Energy
The Department informed the Committee that in September 2008 an operation was initiated to address the illegal mineworkers (Zama Zama) issue in the Goldfields Region. It was agreed that there was a need to involve different role players i.e. the South African Police Service (SAPS) Explosives Unit, Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), SAPS Intervention Unit, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Local police stations, SAPS Organized Crime and neighboring mines.
A presentation was handed out to all role players as well as Harmony Gold Mine Management and Unions regarding the current situation of underground activities of Zama Zamas at the mines. Several accidents occurred where the Zama Zamas threatened legal mine workers in active working areas. Zama Zamas have also started to mine the B-Reef areas at Tshepong and
Masimong 5 shafts. A joint SAPS and Mine Security operation was consequently conducted at all concerned shafts. The operation, which was named, “Operation Zama – Zama” commenced on
16 February 2009.
4.1 Breakdown of arrests, injuries, deaths and disciplinary action i.r.o illegal mining
The Committee was provided with a breakdown of the numbers of illegal miners arrested, sick/injured/deceased, mine employees disciplined and contractors who faced disciplinary charges from 2007-2009:
2007 2008 2009
Illegal Miners Arrested 475 757 806
Illegal Miners Injured 13 66 16
Illegal Miners 36 8 105
Mine employees being 64 80 101
Contractors being 54 56 50
4.2 Money, property and foodstuffs recovered
Between January 2007 and May 2008 an amount of R133 123.10 was recovered from illegal miners. Between November 2008 and December 2008 an amount of R13 230 was recovered from illegal miners. For the period January 2007 to May 2008 an amount of R96 340 was recovered from the mine employees. Recovery of property and foodstuff belonging to the mine amounted to R2 23 0522.55, while the amount of cash found in the possession of Zama-Zamas totalled R213 415.20. Two tons of gold-bearing material (GBM) valued at R1.4 million and 1.5 kg Amalgam valued at R156 000 were also recovered.
4.3 Progress on suggestions made during the meeting held in Bloemfontein on 11 November 2008
; The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) requested that an agreement be reached
between all the Mine Unions that no foodstuff or money will be taken underground.
Progress in this regard is still ongoing.
; Steps have been taken for more serious charges to be brought against illegal miners. ; Measures are in place for Prosecutors to present evidence in aggravation of sentence. ; Measures are in place for severe disciplinary action against Mine/Contractor and Security
; Measures to address money laundering are in place.
; Measures are in place to obtain legal advice in respect of employees of contractor
; The SAPS Task Team Intervention is in progress.
; Steps have been taken to build up a database of illegal miners and their accomplices. ; Measures are in force in terms of which all monies found on miners going underground
will be seized.
; Security personnel will investigate all incidents.
; Apprehended miners should be encouraged to identify their contacts inside and outside
the mine. Possible plea bargaining processes are in place.
; A zero tolerance policy is being applied.
; Programs are currently being presented to employees on ethics, honesty and integrity,
economic impact, loss of job opportunities, etc. in order to address the moral fiber issue. ; Progress is being made to establish a safe “whistle blowing” procedure.
; The initiative for raids to be conducted by SAPS units from outside the Free State due to
corruption and involvement of some members is in the planning phase, and a meeting
was scheduled for 09/02/2009.
; The National Union of Mine Workers and the Solidarity Mine Union which operate in the
Harmony South Region, as well as internal Mine Management were given presentations
on illegal mining.
; The recommendation that employment contracts contain a clause indicating that illegal
mining activities will result in summary dismissal has not yet been implemented. ; The company should weigh up the losses that they will suffer from a 2 to 3 day total shut
; A Group Database linked with surrounding mining houses for Criminal miners, Mine and
Contractor employees who have been charged for whatever reason and dismissed is not
yet in place.
5. Remedial actions to be undertaken by the following entities:
; Regular inspection and checks of attendance records.
; Audits of explosives.
; Urgent investigations on suspected illegal activities.
; Hostel raids.
; Local authorities to work together with SAPS and mine inspectors.
; Community education programmes on danger and health issues of illegal mining. ; Amendment of Mine Health and Safety Act, 2008 to increase fines for non-compliance
with safety regulations from R200 000 to R1 million.
5.2 Harmony Gold Mine
; Access Control
; Food stoppage: Searches will be conducted by security personnel and a managerial
instruction will be issued in compliance with the judicial system to support prosecutors in
prosecuting mine workers assisting Zama Zamas.
; Operation Night Hawk: Mine security is to clamp down on food supply to underground
; Explosives Control: Audits will be conducted by SAPS or Department of Minerals and
5.3 Mine Owners
; Improved access control on all mines.
; Daily monitoring of access into and out of mines.
; Tighten controls over explosives.
; Report suspected illegal operations to authorities.
; Monitor underground environment and report to authorities regarding dangerous
; Employee campaigns to expose illegal operations.
5.4 Labour Unions
; Member campaigns to expose illegal operations.
; Report suspected illegal operations to authorities.
6. Presentation by Department of Police: Crime situation in Thabong and illegal mining hostels
6.1 Historical background
The G-hostel in Thabong is situated in the main street, Constantia Road, near the Teto Secondary School in Zone 1. About 2 500 people are accommodated at G-hostel. The hostel which belongs to the municipality was renovated to accommodate family units. Most of the residents are municipal employees or people employed by the industrial sector. Many of the residents are also involved in illegal mining activities and the illegal selling of gold, liquor and firearms.
6.2 Challenges facing Department of Police
; The environmental design of the hostel is conducive to crime, because it allows passages
between the hostel units which make the pursuit of suspects difficult. ; The infrastructure is poor, the roads and entrances to the hostel units are full of potholes
and trenches and the road condition exceptionally poor.
; It is nearly impossible to action a cordon and search operation, because the area is not
; Access to the units is poor for the police and other local authority services because of the
construction of illegal structures.
; Most of the residents are not co-operating with the police, since many are involved in
crime or have relations with persons involved in criminal activities. ; Many of the residents living in the hostel have no legal right to live there. Undocumented
people frequent the hostel and occupy some of the units without being traced. ; There is an open field between the mine property and the hostel, and thus hostel dwellers
can come and go undetected.
6.3 Participants in illegal mining activities
Illegal mining involves a network of participants at different levels of the hierarchy. Strong arrests effected to date targeted the lower level participants in the chain. These are probably the ex-mineworkers who cannot find alternative employment outside the mining industry. Some of these illegal miners come from neighbouring states like Mozambique and Lesotho.
The participants at the upper end of the chain are responsible for funding the activities of those at the lower end. This involves arming the lower end operators and paying bribes to security personnel. The employees of the mining companies are also involved in allowing access to disused mining shafts by illegal miners. It was reported after the recent accident that Harmony Gold mine suspended 77 staff and 45 contractors on suspicion of helping illegal miners get underground through Harmony’s disused Eland shafts. The Committee raised concern and
suspected that there could be some involvement of Mine Managers with illegal mining. 6.4 Access to disused mines
Mining companies appear to have difficulties controlling access to disused mines. This is attributed to the fact that the ground is full of holes and companies have difficulty plugging all the holes. Attempts have been made to plug some of the holes but illegal miners blast their way through the plugs. Another problem is that the police officers are reluctant to apprehend the offenders underground due to dangerous conditions.
The illegal miners are also armed hence shootouts have been reported between the police and illegal miners on some occasions. This has led to mining companies employing the services of private security firms to bring the illegal miners to the surface where they can be arrested by the police. It has also been reported that illegal miners are paying bribes to the security guards to obtain access to the disused mines. Once the offenders are arrested, the only charge provided by the criminal justice system for engaging in illegal mining is trespass, which carries a lesser fine and does not act as a deterrent. Therefore illegal miners find it easy to pay the fine or serve a short sentence and return to illegal mining.
6.5 Costs of illegal mining
A preliminary investigation revealed that gold is illegally exported through neighbouring countries and abroad. The most evident non-financial cost of this activity is the loss of lives.
Illegal miners go underground and stay there for months under extremely dangerous circumstances. Two weeks before the accident at Eland Shaft, five bodies believed to be those of illegal miners were recovered. In 2007 twenty five (25) illegal miners died in an underground fire.
The common cause of accidents in illegal mining is fire and rock falls. This is because the mines are unsafe and the miners use wood to support the rocks and prevent them from falling. They use blasting methods to extract gold from the rocks. These elements combined predispose the illegal miners to death from burns, crash injuries and suffocation from smoke inhalation or loss of oxygen. There is an indirect cost to the State and an increase in social grants to support the remaining family members who lose bread-winners in mining accidents.
7. Visit to typical shaft at Harmony Gold Mine
The Committee visited the shaft where the bodies of illegal miners were brought to the surface. The Committee was briefed that illegal miners will phone the mine managers requesting them to bring body bags, once they put the bodies in the body bags they brought them to the surface where they handed them over to the security. Illegal miners enter at disused as well as active mine shafts. There are several points of entry and access to these two mines is very easy because the kingpins have good relations with some of the officials and legal miners.
The Committee was also briefed on the operations of the shaft. During the morning shift six people are taken down to the various pump stations where the shafts are dewatered so that the neighbouring shafts like Tsepong and Pakisa do not get flooded. The head gear that was removed and replaced with a 300mm concrete slip with reinforced steeling at Shaft 6 next to Odendaalrus were removed by illegal miners. The total depth of the shaft is 1 600 m, and the sub vertical shaft is 500 meters deep. The shafts are interlinked in a 33 km distance through other shafts. A thorough inspection and maintenance of the shaft is necessary to ensure that the winders, conveyancers, ropes, steel work, and the barrel itself, are in good condition for people to travel there.
The Department also briefed the Committee about the recruitment agency that recruited approximately 25 people in Lesotho and kept them in one big house while they were preparing for their passports to come to South Africa. These people were from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and other African countries and they were robbing the country of its resources. Some of the school children residing at G-Hostel and surroundings are also trained to be involved in the criminal activities. According to SAPS some of the illegal miners were people that were retrenched in South Africa who are now also digging in Lesotho, which meant that the recruitment agency recruited experienced miners. It was reported that youngsters of 18 years old were driving BMWs
and Mercedes Benzes and that when the police arrest them they are released into their parents’
8. Committee Recommendations
8.1 The Department of Mining and the Police should report back to Parliament on a regular
basis regarding the progress made in respect of remedial steps taken by the State, mine
houses and mine owners to combat and prevent illegal mining, and improve the security
and safety at mines.
8.2 Parliament needs to tighten relevant legislation pertaining to the shortcomings in dealing
with illegal mining.
8.3 The proper terminology must be defined and agreed upon in the various sectors (justice,
police, and mining industry) in relation to the crime of illegal mining in order to properly
charge and convict illegal miners caught engaging in illegal mining.
8.4 There should be co-operation between Mining Houses, Labour Unions, SAPS and the
Department of Justice and Constitutional development on the specific charges to be
brought against illegal miners. Illegal miners should be charged with illegal mining and
sentenced accordingly rather than being charged with trespassing which carries more
8.5 SAPS should perform top-level arrests and name and shame syndicate king pins. 8.6 Mining companies should tighten up security and invest in proper security systems. 8.7 The Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate should be strengthened in order to implement
effectively the Mine Health and Safety Amendment Act of 2008, to investigate and enforce
compliance to the Act which will hopefully result in reducing occupational injuries and ill-
8.8. The Mine Health and Safety Amendment Act should be amended to increase the fine for
non-compliance in respect of the safe-keeping of explosives from the current R200 000 to
8.9 Underground security patrols should be encouraged. Security should be increased at
functioning mines including search procedures to prevent the theft and smuggling of
equipment and explosives.
The Committee will follow through on the recommendations set out above and is keen to see progress in this regard. The Committee does not intend to simply carry out oversight visits and write reports for the sake of doing so. The Committee expects a material outcome flowing from this engagement and acknowledges that the responsibility for this does not reside solely with the Executive, and that Parliament also has a major responsibility herein. Consistent with the
oversight role, the Committee commits itself to working with the relevant departments and other stakeholders to achieve progress in respect of the above recommendations.
Report to be considered.