CAPE TOWN, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- The South African government on Monday initiated a study into illegal mining that has long affected the country's mining sector.
The study, which will commence shortly through the Council for Geoscience (CGS), aims to assess whether there is any long-term damage to critical infrastructure installation, the Ministry of Mineral Resources said.
While there is no immediate threat to critical infrastructure as has been claimed, the government wants to confirm this assertion scientifically, and proactively deal with this matter where illegal mining occurs, ministry spokesperson David Shabangu said.
The CGS is expected to provide a preliminary report on the matter within two weeks, according to Shabangu.
The ministry will continue to work through the National Coordination Strategic Management Team (NCSMT), which in turn reports to the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cabinet Committee, on how matters of illegal mining are addressed, said Shabangu.
The NCSMT was established specifically to coordinate the government's efforts to fight illegal mining and the trafficking of precious metals. Other objectives of the NCSMT include bringing about successful prosecution of illegal mining cases, produce policy designed to lead to legislative reform, put in place a strategy to end the illicit trade in precious metals and to increase capacity to deal with illegal mining.
South Africa loses over 6 billion rand (about 435 million U.S. dollars) annually due to illegal mining, according to the South African Chamber of Mines.
About 70 percent of illegal miners are illegal immigrants, the chamber said.
Illegal mining involves about 14,000 people in the country, many of them from Zimbabwe and Mozambique, said the chamber.
Every year, illegal mining also results in the deaths of dozens of illegal miners.
In April this year, four alleged illegal miners died when a mining machine collapsed in Sekhukhune, Limpopo Province, where illegal mining is rampant.