Thursday, July 18, 2024

Illegal gold mining in F/Town escalates as police arrest 131 suspects

Francistown is continuing to experience an influx of illegal gold miners from the neighbouring Zimbabwe despite efforts by the police and other law enforcement authorities to curb the situation.

From January to date police have arrested 131 illegal miners infiltrating the country through ungazetted points of entry.

Speaking to the Telegraph in an interview last week Thursday, the Officer Commanding No. 1 District Senior Superintendent Paul Molapisi said illegal mining activities in the greater Francistown continue to be a great concern.

“While efforts by the police and other law enforcement authorities such as the Botswana Defence Force have been significant, illegal gold mining continues to be a great concern. The illegal mining activities are rife in the Greater Francistown area such as Matsiloje, Patayamatebele and Ditladi villages,” he said.

According to the police, the illegal miners target disused old mining areas in the vicinity of the second city. As a historic gold mining city, Francistown has a number of abandoned unrehabilitated mines in its vicinity.

Molapisi however said out of the 131 culprits arrested, seven illegal miners were charged and given custodial sentences. They were charged for possession unwrought precious stones.

He said 124 have since been deported back to their country of origin. He said the police are continuing to seize various equipment from these illegal miners such as metal detectors, chisels and shovels which are used in this illegal mining operation.

“Most of these illegal miners rent houses in Francistown especially in areas such as Block 4, 7 and 8. It is sad that some of the members of the public are continuing to harbor these criminals. It is also possible that these illegal miners are engaged in other criminal activities. We however continue to work with the community in arresting these culprits,” said a clearly disappointed Molapisi.

The illegal gold mining issue is currently at bi-national level as authorities from both Botswana and Zimbabwe are yet to meet and visit the affected areas in Francistown and surrounding villages.

The summary charge for illegal mining in Botswana is a paltry P200.00 fine. Efforts by government are currently underway to amend the Mines and Minerals Act and impose harsher sentences to deter these illegal mining activities.  Molapisi was optimistic that through their combined efforts with other law enforcement authorities and members of the public, they will win the war against these illegal miners.

“We have a cordial working relationship with our counterparts in Zimbabwe. We have since established a team comprising of the police and the Botswana Defence Force which is currently on the ground to combat illegal mining activities. The team is supported by our air arm division,” he said.

Police investigations suggest that gold is highly in demand in Zimbabwe where it has a profitable market. Molapisi said their investigations are on-going to try and crack the gold black market in that country.

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