R1.5-billion multi-pronged asset seizure order sees authorities tighten illegal coal mining noose
On Monday, the Asset Forfeiture Unit and police in Mpumalanga obtained a preservation order in the Mbombela high court to seize assets worth more than R1.5-billion on a farm linked to unlawful mining. It is said that between November 2021 and September 2023, R264-million in coal was unlawfully mined on a farm in the Carolina district.
The seizure of the property follows reports of an illegal coal mine said to have been operating at Portion 11 and Portion 12 of the Witkranz 53 IT farm near Carolina in Mpumalanga. It is estimated that about 270,000 tons of coal was illegally mined at Portion 11 of the farm over a period of about two years, from November 2021 to September 2023, by a company named GNJ Mining (Pty) LTD (GNJ Mining).
According to regional spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Mpumalanga Monica Nyuswa, the minimum estimated market value price of R980 per ton, coupled with the estimated 270,000 tons that were illegally mined amounted to approximately R264-million worth of coal extracted at the farm over the two years.
The seized assets, Nyuswa added, consist of a farm in the Carolina district, stockpiles/heaps of coal in two separate areas (coal ore material and “washed” coal), heavy-duty mining machinery (yellow machines), equipment and motor vehicles (heavy-duty trucks, etc), as well as washing plant machinery, portable buildings, machines, equipment, and motor vehicles used at Droog Valley farm Barrel Coal Processing and Washing Plant near Carolina.
The NPA further contends that the assets were seized on the grounds that they were reasonably believed to be used as instruments to commit various illegal large-scale coal mining and environmental offences at the farm, and/or that the assets are reasonably believed to be the proceeds of unlawful activities, namely large-scale illegal coal mining and environmental offences.
The seizure, is the result of a joined multi-agency investigation and cooperation between the specialised SAPS illegal mining unit (Detective Service Organised Crime Investigation Unit in Gauteng), the Mpumalanga Organised Crime component at the Mpumalanga Director of Public Prosecutions’ office, the Mpumalanga Asset Forfeiture Unit, the enforcement section of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and the enforcement section of the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs (Dardlea).
“The seizure of the property follows an illegal coal mine that was conducted at Portion 11 and Portion 12 of the farm Witkranz 53 IT (the farm) in the Carolina, Mpumalanga area. It is estimated that about 270,000 tons of coal was illegally mined at Portion 11, of the farm during a period of about 2 years from November 2021 to September 2023, by a company named GNJ Mining (Pty) LTD (GNJ Mining).
“GNJ Mining never had lawful authorisation/permit from the DMRE and/or the Dardlea to mine coal at the farm. The illicit coal that was mined at the farm was taken to Droogvalley Barrel Plant (Droogvalley) in the Carolina area, where the coal was processed and “washed” to prepare it for sale to GNJ Mining’s coal-using clients,” Nyuswa explained.
Police targeting syndicates
This action follows a police raid at the farm on 19 September 19, 2023, during which they witnessed the magnitude of the illegal coal mining operation at the farm and Droogvalley. On the day, the SAPS apprehended illegal mine manager Paul Boshoff and seized the majority of the assets stated at the property and Droogvalley.
Read more in Daly Maverick: Mpumalanga police seize mining equipment worth R60m during crackdown on illegal coal mine
National police spokesman Brigadier Athlenda Mathe noted at the time of Boshoff’s arrest that “through collaboration with the relevant authorities, it was discovered that the mine was not licensed and is operating illegally.”
Mathe also indicated that in the past 12 months, 748 coal yards across the country were “visited to ensure compliance” while a total of 63 unregulated coal yards were shut down because they were not authorised by law to operate by the DMRE and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE).
Illegal coal mining rife
Mpumalanga appears to be the epicentre of illegal mining activities, with Defence Minister Thandi Modise blaming ‘trained soldiers’ and neighbouring countries for the issue.
Modise also mentioned during a briefing by the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPS) ministers heard on Friday that the deployment of the National Intervention Team in Mpumalanga to deal with illegal mining and the Eskom energy crisis had resulted in the arrest of 67 illegal miners, while mining equipment worth R180-million and coal worth R12-million had been seized.
Furthermore, members of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) were briefed on intelligence reports commissioned by Eskom’s former Group Chief Executive (GCEO), Andre de Ruyter, at a recent meeting in Parliament with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), SAPS, and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI/Hawks).
Daily Maverick has previously reported that intelligence reports indicated at at least four criminal cartels are allegedly operating in Eskom as well as in the illegal coal mining industry. The impacts of this alleged activity can be seen in anecdotal evidence of substandard and illegal coal from illegal coal yards being delivered to Eskom’s power stations. This negatively impacts plant machinery, leading to breakdowns of the sort that can cause or exacerbate rolling blackouts.
Further coverage on the vast scope of illegal mining:
- SARS tip-offs lead to successful multi-province coal smugglers search-and-seizure operation.
- Introducing the four crime cartels that have brought Eskom and South Africa to their knees.
- Mpumalanga, where criminality surrounding the coal value chain is widely seen as rife, remains the main bottleneck for applications for mining permits in South Africa. These would be for open-pit operations that are no more than five hectares and require little in the way of environmental and social compliance.
- Grain SA CEO: Poorly regulated coal mining is a threat to SA’s food security.
The case against Boshoff has been postponed to 16 February 2024 at the Carolina Magistrates Court DM