The proliferation of borrow pits to simplify the supply of sand and aggregates for road construction crews has once again come under the spotlight following the deaths of two workers at a borrow pit in Limpopo recently.
The two had apparently been digging sand for a road construction project when a collapse occurred and buried them under tons of sand and debris. Despite rescuers attempts they could not be rescued in time and succumbed to injuries on site. Two other workers were recovered by police rescuers and were hospitalised with serious injuries.
The latest incident has spurred a call from surface mining industry association, Aspasa, for the government to put an urgent end to all forms of illegal mining including the mining of sand and aggregates from unlicensed borrow pits. The regulator has also been called upon to urgently act on this type of illegal mining to avoid further loss of life.
Aspasa director, Nico Pienaar, says he hopes that the reappointment of Minerals and Energy Minister, Gwede Matashe, will hasten the process, as he is well aware of the problem. “Aspasa believes there will be a better focus on the issue of illegal mining, especially in the North of the country - which is especially prone to Illegal mining of sand.
“The regulator seems to focus on the established and legal operations with frequent visits and demands, while the industry is competing with illegal operations, who don’t pay the minimum wages, nor attend to Health and Safety or even worse the environment.
“This allows for unregulated business (which needs to be focused on by the departments) such as SARS (no VAT or taxes are paid), Water Affairs, Environmental Affairs, SAPS, Home Affairs (illegal migrants) and then the Department of Mineral Resources. If all these departments get together and work together then the problem could be resolved quickly, but it seems that the decay of the Government departments have gone much deeper than is believed.
“Some time ago Minister Mantashe closed some of the Department of Mineral Resources regional offices due to funny business taking place, ASPASA was requested to report any unprofessional activities to the Ministers’ offices which we have done. We now wait to see what the changes will be now that the Minister has a second stint in this portfolio,” concludes Pienaar.