Millions ‘stolen’ in illegal chrome rush – by Lutho Mtongana, Lucky Biyase and Sabelo Skiti (Sunday Times – June 26, 2016)

South Africa – An elaborate illegal chrome-mining operation in rural Limpopo has shipped out chrome worth millions of rand, with the blessing of local headmen – and the government is powerless to stop the plunder.

Mining experts estimate the illegal miners may already have extracted 360,000 tons of chrome, with an estimated value of R500-million. The Sunday Times could not establish this week how many illegal operators are mining, or how much chrome is being taken.

But throughout the day, luxury cars with Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and Gauteng registration plates pulled in and out of the mines. Some trucks had plates from Mozambique. A copy of a cash flow statement belonging to one of the operators showed his company had made R1.5-million in two weeks, having moved 7,000 metric tons of chrome.

To get a stake in the chrome rush, a one-off R250,000 payment is made to one of six community trusts made up of headmen, their councils and community members. Prospective miners also have to employ locals as general workers at a monthly salary of between R3,500 to R4,000.

The Sunday Times visited Tjibeng Village over two weeks and witnessed the brazen operations. In broad daylight, heavy-duty trucks, tippers, excavators and drill rigs litter the countryside at the village, near Burgersfort in Limpopo’s Sekhukhune district. The illegal mines even have site offices and boom gates manned by security guards.

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