Illegal Sand Miners Caught by “Green Scorpions”

In a fantastic coup for the Western Cape environmental agencies a syndicate of illegal sand miners has been successfully identified and shut down by the “Green Scorpions”. Although this happened outside the jurisdiction of Cape Point Chronicle, the action was initiated by a tip of from a member of the public.

There have been numerous reports in local publications, mainly reader’s letters, suggesting that this kind of thing has and does occur in places within the Cape Peninsula and so if anyone should see such activity please report it to the authorities as they are hungry to take action.

The press release from the Western Cape Government was as follows:

Green Scorpions Sand Mining Blitz

Sand is an important component in the building construction and glass-making industries. As a result, this commodity is highly sought after and is lucrative and profitable, especially if it is obtained free of charge, like when mined illegally.
However, excessive sand mining can pose a serious threat to the natural environment by causing significant degradation and destruction of biodiversity sensitive areas by removing indigenous vegetation and soil, either along coastal sensitive areas, inland ecological corridors or along river banks.  This could lead to soil erosion and pollution of the natural water resources.
The Western Cape Government the Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (“the Department”) received a tip-off from a concerned member of the public regarding apparent illegal sand mining activities which were said to be taking place in the Cape Winelands Area.
After extensive surveillance and reconnaissance of the area and subsequent investigations conducted by Environmental Management Inspectors or ”Green Scorpions” from the Department, a particular property was identified on which extensive mining activities were taking place.  Due to the nature of the transgression it was agreed that an intergovernmental operation would be the most appropriate way of dealing with the transgression.
An intergovernmental task team consisting of Green Scorpions and other law enforcement officials from the following organs of state was formed: the national Department of Environmental Affairs, SAPS, the National Prosecution Authority and the Department of Rural Development & Land Reform.
After the planning and surveillance operation the task team conducted a joint criminal operation, after obtaining a search warrant to enter and search the property in order to obtain evidence pertaining to the illegal sand mining operation. The team impounded earthmoving equipment used in the illegal excavation of sand, which is valued at approximately R2.5 million.  In appropriate circumstances such equipment may be forfeited to the state.
“The purpose of the operation was to ‘catch the perpetrators in the act’ of using the equipment and to ensure that the activities were brought to a halt,” said Environmental Management Inspector Fahd Said. During the operation the Green Scorpions established that the contractors tasked with the excavation were digging into approximately 4 – 5 metres into the ground which caused significant degradation to the land. Parts of the illegal mining activities had also taken place within a wetland area which was situated on the property.
Officials from the Department of Rural Development & Land Reform were on hand to assess the extent of the illegal mining activities on the property.
The offences amounted to causing significant degradation to the environment and commencing a listed activity without environmental authorisation.  Both offences carry penalties of between R5 and R10 million or 5 and 10 years imprisonment.
Investigations into this case are still on-going and the Department is in the process of ensuring that the appropriate action is taken against the perpetrators.
Issued by the Head of Communication Rudolf Van Jaarsveldt
Rudolf.vanjaarsveldt@westerncape.gov.za
021 483 4051
or 076 319 5027

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