South Africa is the world’s biggest producer of chrome ore and it is estimated that about 10% of South Africa’s yearly production of chrome is lost to illegal mining. There has been an emergence of a bulk commodity illegal industry in South African chrome mining, said global law enforcement network organisation the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC) in its latest Risk Bulletin report.
According to the report, soldiers, police and security guards in April descended on a mine in North West to disrupt a large illegal mining operation. The miners had been excavating chrome ore, which is an essential mineral for manufacturing stainless steel.
Taking advantage of loopholes in South African law, they had posed as legitimate companies, operating with heavy machinery in broad daylight. Investigators estimated that the syndicate was making off with R1-million of ore a day. Police confiscated 20 machines, including trucks, excavators and diesel tanks, as well as more than 2 000 t of chrome.
“This was not an isolated case, but part of an insidious and hugely lucrative illicit economy that has flourished in South Africa in recent years. By some estimates, South Africa now loses around 10% of its production each year to illegal mining, amounting to 600 000 t of stolen material. This chrome is exported in bulk, primarily to China, without generating tax revenue in South Africa.