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Statement by James Lorimer
Democratic Alliance: Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources

Reports from North West Province indicate police are finally taking an interest in a criminal takeover of a junior mine, after the owners filed papers against Minister of Police.

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The Nuco chrome mine has had to deal with three successive attempted takeovers by illegal miners since the rights holders secured the rights more than 10 years ago. On each occasion police failed to stop the illegal acts. In the latest takeover attempt, the rights holders who include the Royal Bafokeng, have been granted a court order that interdicts the respondents from removing mined material and orders police to stop the illegal activity.

The mine owners say police have not complied with this order, which was issued last month, and have approached the High court again, asking for action this week, against the Minister of Police and the National Commissioner.

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It’s interesting to note that after literally years of inactivity the police are beginning to show interest in this case. Clearly the latest contempt application that would see the Minister and the Police Commissioner jailed for not enforcing previous orders against the mine invaders has got police nervous. One has to ask whether it takes a threat to jail the Minister get police to act.

Court papers show a number of illegal acts, including the seizure of chrome and platinum ore, and its hijacking from police guard at gunpoint. There appear to have been no consequences for the hijackers.

The Nuco chrome mine has the potential to employ up to 500 people, but has been struggling to start operations because of the illegal miners.

This is just the latest such issue to come to light. Last month the DA highlighted the attempt to grab a large share of a new copper mine near Prieska by illegal miners posing as business forums and community activists. On that occasion too, police failed to act until compelled to do so by court order.

Absent from this is the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy. In the Nuco case the department’s role has been notable for the foot dragging over licencing procedures and its failure to support action against the illegal miners.

It should be the department’s job to help protect legal right holders, because by doing so, they protect their own licencing system. If that system is ignored by criminals with impunity, it is a matter of time before it is ignored by everybody.

The government claims to want to foster junior miners. If that is more than just talk, it needs to step up and take tangible action against the criminals.