HomeCoalMines will no longer be soft targets for crime

Mines will no longer be soft targets for crime

Mines within different regions of the country should pool their security resources and share intelligence information in order to better direct efforts at combatting the growing crime scourge.

With rampant theft, hijackings and site invasions becoming commonplace in some areas the time to act is now. In order to root out crimes, as well as identify trends and potential hotspots before actual crimes occur mine managers need to think out of the box and potentially help fund rapid-reaction units to respond appropriately to different types of crimes.

These sentiments were shared by management and security experts during a recent security workshop hosted by surface mining industry association, ASPASA, during which participants highlighted some worrying crime trends, as well as innovative solutions that are turning the tide of crime in favour of some mines.

Stop crime

ASPASA director, Nico Pienaar, says meetings like this one helps to shed light on the crime situation and gives members an opportunity to share their experiences to the benefit of all. “Finding ways of ensuring the safety of everyone on the mine is not a competitive advantage and cannot be seen as colluding when we work together.”

Some of the worrying trends highlighted during the ASPASA Security Workshop included an alarming increase in armed robberies onsite at several member mines. Other rising crimes included copper cable theft that is running into costs of millions of Rands in lost production. Simultaneously, burglaries on the increase and perhaps most worrying is the trend of “spiking” car tyres or near mines and obstructing roads in order to rob and terrorise the unfortunate occupant – sometimes with murderous consequences.

Unfortunately, a common thread emerged during the meeting that the South African Police Service (SAPS) seldom or never respond to crimes perpetrated on the mines nor do they take action to investigate crimes that have occurred which means criminals are learning to act with impunity with no fear of the law.

Special forces

“As a result, member companies are being forced to hire specialised security personnel to prevent crime, investigate crimes that have occurred and prosecute offenders. These services do not come cheap but may be more affordable to smaller-scale mines if they pool their resources and share costs within a specific geographic area, or even launch industry wide initiatives with related cost savings.

“These services usually go hand-in-hand with early warning sensors that pick-up movement at perimeters, monitor cell phone activity and others that use CCTV and alarms to give responders time to react. These passive measures can be costly but are increasingly being adopted by ASPASA member surface mines.

“Another worrying factor that our mine managers have identified is the prevalence of “inside jobs” where perpetrators that have been arrested either work for the mine or later implicate the mines employees in assisting them. It is therefore important to hire staff carefully and vet them meticulously because criminals posing as workers can become the enemy from within,” says Nico. 

Alternative solutions

He adds that mines should also look at socio-economic reasons for crimes in the area and possibly identify initiatives to help build communities and create new revenue streams for locals to tap into – no matter how small and humble the beginning of such initiatives may be. Although the majority of crimes are the result of greed, at least a small percentage can be attributed to desperation and in these instances a softer approach and assistance may alleviate the problem.

Other initiatives highlighted included the use of technology that can implement triggers such as lights, sirens, pepper spray, armed response and other passive security measures. Replacing unarmed guards on site with specialists who are properly trained and alert to possible threats.

Mines should also become part of fight back initiatives which means that participating mines will no longer be seen as soft targets and change criminals’ mines when planning their next moves. Most importantly, mines need to identify when and where crimes are taking place and dispatch teams that can take appropriate actions.