Police said 50 of the suspects were caught at Blyvoor Gold Mine in Carletonville, while 30 others were arrested at a roadblock on the P111 road on Thursday, while on their way to mines.
Carletonville station commander Brigadier Marinda Theron said the suspects were in the country illegally and were not in possession of relevant documents to be in South Africa.
“The 30 illegal miners were arrested when we were conducting a stop and search roadblock on the P111 road. They were found without passports. The others were found in the vicinity of Blyvoor Gold Mine.
“Some of them were found inside vehicles going to to the mines. Others were found in the Blyvoor Gold Mine premises and were possessing gold bearing materials. They were also in possession of copper cables,” said Theron.
Theron said escalating copper cable theft led to residents protesting over the lack of electricity supply.
“Our public live without electricity because of copper cable theft and we have to deal with public violence caused by lack of service delivery. We have divided the entire Carletonville into policing sections where we know where to find those behind illegal mining and copper cable theft.”
Theron said there was an increasing number of murders in the area as well.
“Our area is situated in a mining area and we are experiencing an influx of illegal immigrants involved in illegal mining. On a daily basis, we arrest illegal immigrants for illegal mining. We are working with mining security companies to arrest them.
“Illegal miners are infiltrating our area in big numbers. We also work with [the Department of] Home Affairs officials to ascertain the status of the arrested illegal miners in the country. We arrest them daily. Some of them are taken away and they return to their illegal activities,” Theron said.
Theron added that the illegal miners or zama zamas, as they were commonly known, have formed rival factions that were now fighting for territory.
“Those rival groups are armed with firearms and murder and attempt to murder each other daily. They also rob each other. There is a possibility that we will finally arrest the kingpins behind illegal mining,” Theron said.