By; Lindobuhle David Nene

Artisanal miners in South Africa have long been subjected to non-recognition, brutalization by private securities, and unfair arrest and prosecution. The current Artisanal Mining Policy for small-scale mining, or lack thereof, fails to provide a mechanism to assist these miners in becoming legally operating small-scale artisans. Despite recognizing the potential of artisanal mining in job creation and poverty alleviation, the current legislation continues to label these miners as criminals. It is essential for the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) to enforce a relationship between the mines and artisanal miners to curb brutalization and improve their legal status.

Non-Recognition and Brutalization
One of the major issues faced by artisanal miners is the lack of recognition as legitimate stakeholders in the mining industry. They are often treated as trespassers on mining sites and are subject to violent confrontations with private security personnel. The use of excessive force, intimidation, and even physical assaults on artisanal miners is distressing and unacceptable. These individuals, who are merely trying to make a living and support their families, should not have to face such brutality.
Arrest and Prosecution
The current policy fails to provide a clear path for artisanal miners to operate legally. As a result, they often face arbitrary arrests and prosecutions as criminals. This perpetuates the cycle of poverty and marginalization for these individuals. Instead of being empowered to contribute to the country’s economy, they are subjected to legal battles that further drain their limited resources. The lack of a clear regulatory framework further adds to the confusion and frustration experienced by these miners.
The DMRE’s Role
The DMRE should play a pivotal role in enforcing a relationship between established mining companies and artisanal miners. It is essential to ensure fair treatment, protection, and recognition of the work done by these individuals. This would not only curb the brutalization but also create an environment that promotes the sustainable growth of artisanal mining.
Furthermore, the DMRE should strive to provide the necessary mechanisms and support for artisanal miners to formalize their operations. Empowering them with legal recognition and access to resources will enhance their contribution to the country’s economy. By working closely with artisanal mining associations such as MACUA-WAMUA, the DMRE can address the concerns and needs of these miners more effectively.
As MACUA-WAMUA, we strongly support small-scale artisanal miners and continue to advocate for fair formalization and legal status of their operations. We believe that artisanal miners should not be treated as outlaws but should be afforded the opportunity to contribute to the country’s economy in a fair and sustainable manner. As MWAO we have supporting the artisenal miners to provide support, and legal advises, and most of them comes as so despondent to the reality they are facing merely because they are securing a bread on table.
With that being said, as MWAO we make robust recommendations for the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and the South African government:
1. Formalization of Artisanal Miners:
The DMRE should establish a clear and comprehensive framework for the formalization of artisanal miners. This should include simplified registration processes, clear guidelines for obtaining licenses, and the provision of support services such as training and capacity building for artisanal miners.
2. Rehabilitation of Mines:
The DMRE should prioritize the rehabilitation of abandoned mines and the areas affected by artisanal mining activities. This should include conducting thorough environmental assessments, developing and implementing effective mine closure plans, and ensuring that the necessary funds are allocated for the rehabilitation process.
3. Regulation of Small-scale Artisanal Mining:
The current small-scale artisanal miners should be regulated under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) Amendment. This will help formalize their operations, ensure compliance with environmental and safety regulations, and prevent illegal mining activities. The DMRE should establish clear guidelines and standards for small-scale mining operations, including appropriate mining techniques, health and safety measures, and responsible environmental practices.
4. Capacity Building and Training:
The DMRE should prioritize the provision of capacity building and training programs for artisanal miners. This should include training on safe and responsible mining practices, environmental management, occupational health and safety, and financial management.
5. Safety and Well-being of Artisanal Miners:
The government should prioritize the safety and well-being of artisanal miners by implementing measures to protect their rights and ensure fair working conditions. This should include promoting the formation of cooperatives or associations to empower artisanal miners, providing access to social protection schemes such as healthcare and insurance, and establishing mechanisms for resolving conflicts and disputes.
6. Collaboration with Stakeholders:
The DMRE and government should actively engage and collaborate with stakeholders including artisanal miners, local communities, civil society organizations, and experts in the mining sector. This will help ensure that the formalization and regulation processes take into account the needs and perspectives of all stakeholders and contribute to sustainable development. We would caution against the use of tributary arrangements as they have often been used as a fronting exercise which allows the Large Scale Mining to outsource its work without incurring the liabilities of employing workers. Where Large Scale Mining’s have unused mining sites, these sites should/may be allocated to artisanal mining activities. These must either be transferred to regulated Artisanal Mining cooperatives by the LSM via a regulatory process as part of the mines obligations to redress and development, or the area must be proclaimed as Artisanal Mining areas by the Minister and sites allocated accordingly. A portion LSM licence permits should be allocated to ASM`s as part of broad-based empowerment initiatives and must be based on sound geological assessments so that artisanal miners are not left to mine unproductive sites while LSM`s retain the profitable sites
The Artisanal Mining Policy for small-scale mining in South Africa fails to provide the necessary support to artisanal miners, leading to non-recognition, brutalization, and legal complications. The DMRE should enforce a relationship between mining companies and artisanal miners to protect their rights and curb the brutality they face. Additionally, the DMRE must work towards creating a regulatory framework that enables artisanal miners to operate legally and contribute to the country’s economy. It is time for the government to recognize the importance of artisanal mining and provide the necessary support to ensure the fair formalization and recognition of their operations. The formalization of artisanal miners, rehabilitation of mines, regulation of small-scale artisanal mining, and prioritizing the safety and well-being of these miners are crucial steps that the DMRE and South African government should take. By implementing these recommendations, South Africa can harness the potential of artisanal mining while minimizing its negative impacts and promoting sustainable development in the mining sector.