Free State: The Virginia High Court imposed lengthy jail terms to 22 convicted illegal miners on Tuesday, 14 March 2017.
The 22 miners were arrested in April 2014 for an illegal mining operation that started in August 2012 at Masimong Mine in Welkom. They were arrested during an operation conducted by a security company and the Hawks while the criminals illegally occupied a closed mine. Initially, all convicts were facing 843 charges. However, they were cleared of 266 charges and were found guilty on 577 charges on Monday, 20 February 2017.
Among those multiple charges on which they were found guilty, includes racketeering, money laundering, Contravention of the Precious Metals Act and the Criminal Procedure Act. They were also charged with trespassing and Immigration Act as well as theft worth a grand total of over R120 million.
Lieutenant General Ntlemeza hailed the sentence as a landmark moment in the fight against illegal mining in the country. “ we hope that this precedent set by our courts will not only serve as a deterrent but will also help us in our efforts to combat illegal mining even in other upcoming cases”.