President Ramaphosa must intervene to address the harms of illegal Sand Mining

Agri SA is concerned about the rapid proliferation of illegal and unregulated sand mining activities in the vicinity of the recently proclaimed Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone in Limpopo. This activity has serious implications for the environment, food production and proper management of water resources in the area. Agri SA is therefore calling on President Ramaphosa to convene an Inter-Ministerial Panel to coordinate urgent interventions to prevent large-scale environmental devastation.

Illegal mining by purported artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) miners in the Sand River basin, a tributary of the Limpopo River (one of Southern Africa’s major water courses), has reached crisis levels for the agricultural sector in that province.

It appears that the mining companies involved and the environmental assessment practitioners (EAPs) acting on their behalf are seeking to circumvent environmental, and water use license authorization requirements by applying for multiple mining permits for adjacent areas measuring less than 5 hectares each, but together comprising an extended area measuring roughly 70 hectares. In many instances, public consultation has been non-existent.

Cumulatively, largely unregulated sand mines along the Sand River, have devastating consequences for farming in the area and the livelihoods these farms support due to the harmful effects of such activities on the river environment and competition for water.

A significant number of farmers are already being affected by this growing phenomenon. As a consequence, many jobs and much needed revenue could be lost unless government acts quickly to curtail this illegal activity.

And it is clear that the problem extends far further than Limpopo. Similar activity is reported across South Africa.

Currently, mining laws in South Africa do not regulate ASM as a discrete form of mining. Instead, a mining permit which is less onerous than a mining right can be obtained, but ASM miners still struggle to meet its requirements.

On 30 March 2022, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy published the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) Policy which aims to create a formal ASM industry that can operate in a sustainable manner and contribute to the economy. The policy also aims to deter illegal mining. But this task cannot be left to the Department of Minerals and Energy alone given the far-reaching consequences of this illegal activity for the environment, the agricultural sector, and the country’s already scarce water resources.

 Agri SA is therefore writing to President Ramaphosa to request that all applications for mining permits and current mining activities be halted, and that the President convene an Inter-Ministerial Panel including the Ministers for Minerals and Energy, Water and Sanitation, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, and Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, to ensure that the ASM Policy is not abused to the detriment of our country’s natural resources. Current abuses must be curbed swiftly to ensure the future success and sustainability of both the agriculture and mining sectors, and to protect in the environment and water resources of the affected areas.


Janse Rabie

Law and Policy Executive

076 451 9601