Saturday, October 31, 2020

Illegal sand excavators derail Botswana railways

Botswana Railways (BR) is worried that illegal sand mining along the country’s railway line poses a risk to the safety of Botswana trains. BR chief executive officer (CEO), Leonard Makwinja on Friday slammed illegal sand miners who are digging dangerous pits along the railway line. 

The BR CEO, Board Chairman and their team visited the Boatle railway line to witness the ongoing illegal sand mining that has left huge pit-like holes near the railway line. The excavation exposes the railwayline to be washed away by flood waters and is a perfect trap for domestic animals to drown in pools of water created from the unregulated digging.  

The CEO expressed displeasure at the illegal activity as it has the potential to cause train derailments. He called on the public to desist from illegally mining sand and to report culprits to the police.  

“The Botswana Police continue to detain people for this crime. As we speak, they have detained some,” said Makwinja. 

He noted that this is happening countrywide and called on the public to desist from such as it endangers the lives of rail passengers and crews. The BR Board Chairman, Adolf Hirschfeld shared the CEOs sentiments and bemoaned that the fines were not stringent enough to deter potential illegal miners.  

“I think the charge for illegal sand mining is about 10 000 Pula but if you pay on the spot, they reduce the fine. I think this should not be the case,” said Hirschfeld. Illegal sand and gravel mining mostly by the river banks is a big problem in Botswana. Sand and gravel are sought after in Botswana’s multi-million-pula construction industry.  

The legislation of sand mining falls under the Mines and Minerals Act, 1999. Sand is classified as an industrial mineral under the Act. According to this Act anyone applying for a mining license should have a prospecting license which initially gives one the right to survey and assess an area for commercial mining purposes.

It also states that the minerals permit to exploit industrial minerals shall not be granted to a person who is not a citizen of Botswana.

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