A walk on the beach without the feel of sand between your toes, or riverbeds carved into rock with no sandbanks to protect the shores from flood waters, these are two haunting scenarios that can become a reality in certain parts of the country if Government does not take immediate action against illegal sand miners.
The crime of stealing sand from our beaches, dunes and riverbeds is regarded as a soft crime by many authorities and the inaction of law enforcers to close down such illegal operations only serves to strengthen this perception.
As a result, surface mining industry association, ASPASA, says it will adopt a zero-tolerance attitude towards illegal mines and will lobby Government and its various departments to act and shut these operations. In instances where government departments or municipalities are implicated, the association wants to ensure justice is served and guilty parties are prosecuted.
“It must be remembered that licenced mining operations have to jump through hoops to get a mining licence and that the assurance of compliance with relevant legislation, regulations, and bylaws relating to the payment of tax, royalties, water usage, environmental, health, safety and other requirements is onerous and expensive.
“One cannot simply let an individual or company with an excavator or truck begin removing sand from its natural state anywhere in the country. The minute minerals are removed from their natural state for further processing or sale it is regarded as a mining operation and needs to comply with the requirements stated previously.
“Whether it is a municipality excavating sand for a road, a construction contractor using river sand for a construction project or shifting beach sand for use elsewhere, if not properly approved these actions are criminal offences and need to be investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted,” says ASPASA director, Nico Pienaar.
He explains that many examples of illegal mining exist throughout South Africa and the world and that some have had catastrophic consequences that included landslides, severe erosion, disappearing beaches, burst riverbanks and many more.
If authorities continue to cast a blind eye towards illegal sand mining operations, these will prosper and with fewer input costs will eventually displace legitimate and sustainable operations. Once this occurs it will spell disaster for land usage in the country and citizens can expect ruined landscapes, swathes of inarable land, flooding and erosion of our coastline and waterways.
“Please report suspicious sand mining operations to your local authorities and local councillors. If these operations persist we suggest contacting our offices to report the matter and we will pass the information on to the relevant Government departments and law enforcement agencies. We must act now to save our environment,” implores Nico.