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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Arrested for Gold Panning in South Africa

A lot of people complain about the mining regs over here, but take a look at the number of people arrested in South Africa for gold prospecting without a permit. All of my permits have been pretty easy to get.

My biggest complaint over here is really the lack of clarity and/or consistency, even in a given state. Federal regs differ from BLM to Forest Service and State regulations differ from stream to stream, and county property (under bridges on county roads) seams to have its own rules.

Then, when you finally get the regs figured out and are ready to go find some gold, figuring out what is already claimed is damn near impossible. LR2000 is helpful, but not up to date, so the BLM says to check with county records first. County records are like sifting through split pea soup. There's software out there, but I've not seen anything, anywhere that essentially marked what was claimed and what was not, and was actually current, with ALL the claims.

If we're so heavily regulated, you'd think somebody in that overbearing beurocracy would know what was claimed and what was not - today, when I'm looking for the information. Then again, if I did stumble upon somebody else's claim, from everything I've read, nobody will do anything about it (unless of course, the claim holder fires a few shots at me).

The truth is, the filing fees on a claim don't even cover the cost of processing the claim, let alone administration, law enforcement, etc, so we get a bunch of other entities with their own agendas and regs. Personally, I'd pay more in fees if it meant more clarity and protections for claim holders.

Anyway, here's the article. Found at news24.com:

Zim magistrate caught panning 28/02/2007 12:09 -

Johannesburg - A Harare magistrate and seven other people will appear in court before the end of this week for allegedly prospecting for gold without a permit, Zimbabwe's Herald Online reported.

The magistrate, who borrowed a friend's car to go on an illegal gold panning mission in Mhangura, was arrested at the weekend.

He is reported to have run away from the police who pursued him for about eight kilometres before finally catching him. He was arrested together with seven other suspects.

The arrests were made when a team of plainclothes police officers visited the area to assess the situation prior to a raid.

It is alleged that four officers approached the magistrate and started chatting with him, pretending to be gold dealers.

While discussing strategies to evade police - who are currently conducting Operation Chikorokoza Chapera/Isitsheketsha Sesiphelile to clamp down on illegal mining activities - a group of uniformed officers suddenly appeared.

"The magistrate, who was holding a panning rod, a pick and had folded his trousers knee-high, dropped the equipment at the sight of the police officers and took to his heels," police spokesman chief superintendent Oliver Mandipaka said.

"The magistrate and seven others are all being charged under Section 392 (A) as read with Section 392 of the Mines and Minerals Act Chapter 21:05. This means they were prospecting for gold without a permit," he said.

Mandipaka said the suspects were expected to appear in court this week.

He said since the commencement of Operation Chikorokoza Chapera last November, police had arrested 31 509 people who were found panning for gold without permits.

Did that really say 31,509 people arrested for panning for gold without a permit since November?!?! The missing comma is a little confusing, but proper grammar is different from country to country, and the article is from South Africa.

That says to me, either (or any combination of the following):
  1. There's a lot of gold in South Africa
  2. The Magistrate gig doesn't pay much
  3. Permits are freaking tough to get
  4. The people are poor, poor, poor
  5. The mining companies run the government and don't like competition from the little guys

I don't know the political situation over there, nor have I been prospecting in South Africa, but that's an aweful lot of arrests. All I had to contend with yesterday was sleet, rain, wind, high water and a lack of a good spot to set up my sluice. Hate to have to keep an eye over my shoulder for the cops the whole time too...

BTW, anyone know what a panning rod might refer to?

1 comment:

Ged Davie said...

Hello there. Thanks for interesting comments and I know this is over a year since your blog, but just to put a couple of things straight. Zimbabwe is a country north of South Africa and they are distinct political entities. Zim, as it is locally known, is run by an illegitimate government and its police force leaves much to be desired. South Africa has a democratically elected government. You are right, people in Zim are very poor and gold panning is a way to feed themselves and their families. And in South Africa/Zim etc being ex British colonies there is no comma in the numbers so that figure is in the thirty thousands. Just goes to show what a despotic dictator can do a a country.