The operation was initiated by the Reiger Park police, after they received a tip-off about illegal mining activities in the area.
As the illegal miners, covered in thick dust, emerged from underground, police officers were waiting for them next to the hole that gave access to the unused mineshaft.
They were all bundled into police vans, before being taken to the police station. The illegal miners hail from neighbouring countries, including Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho. Some of them are undocumented and don’t have work permits.
They were charged with illegal mining and all appeared in the Boksburg Magistrate’s Court last week.
According to the police, some of the miners were granted R1 000 bail each, but those who were undocumented, were remanded in custody.
Dozens of illegal miners were also arrested late last month.
Mashudu Phathela, spokesman for the Reiger Park SAPS, admitted that the problem of illegal mining is widespread across their policing precinct.
Phathela said the operation aimed at cracking down on illegal mining was going to continue until all illegal miners were removed.
One of the illegal miners, who wanted to remain anonymous, gave an insight into their illegal activities underground.
“It is going to be very difficult for the authorities to control, contain, monitor or police illegal mining,” he said.
“Arresting 18 people will not make any substantial difference because, as I am speaking to you now, hundreds of illegal miners are underground, sifting soil to find gold dust.
“Different groups of miners work in the hundreds of tunnels at the mine site that lead to all parts of the city.
“Some of the illegal miners are former mine workers who are familiar with the underground system and who know exactly where to dig,” he explained.
“When we go underground, we carry our food, because we often spend months underground, e-king out a living.”
The miners wear industrial helmets, gumboots and work suits. Their equipment comprises little more than a pick, spade, torch, chisel, hammer, bucket and bowl.
“People also need to understand that we are not doing this dangerous job because we like to. For some of us it is difficult to find a job, because we don’t have work permits,” he said.
“We are dependent on illegal mining for a living.
“I’m the breadwinner back home in Lesotho, and illegal mining is the only source of income for my family.” – CNS.