Illegal gold mining expands in South Africa at sky-high rates: report

Illegal gold mining expands in South Africa at sky-high rates: report

Illegal miners in South Africa. (Screenshot from VICE News documentary, via You Tube)

The land around South Africa’s capital Johannesburg, known in Zulu as eGoli or the “City of Gold,” is dotted with abandoned mine shafts, which have began to attract hundreds of unemployed people both locals and from neighbouring nations, such as Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Hoping to get some of the gold remaining in those deposits, these workers often spend weeks underground under unsafe conditions, which had led to the death of many, Bloomberg reports.

The last incident, in February this year, saw at least 200 illegal miners trapped underground, most of who reportedly refused to come out, as they knew they would face jail.

Over 80 illegal miners died after an underground fire at a Harmony gold mine in 2009. In March 2012, at least 20 workers were buried alive after a rockfall hit a closed gold mine in the eastern South African province of Gauteng.

Accidents are not the only life threat to these people. Bloomberg’s report highlights that gang violence, robbery and prostitution have also began to claim their victims, as the illegal operations have become a scene of deadly gang warfare between rival factions.

The South African government estimates that 14,000 people are involved in illegal mining throughout the country, the world’s fourth-biggest gold exporter.