The greater Gaborone area has been affected by illegal sand mining which has forced the authorities to stop issuing licenses. Villagers are complaining of being deprived of their water source by illegal miners who have left the river sand to almost extinction.
One of the most affected rivers is Chawe River in Mogobane village. It is no longer a river because there is no sand anymore, looking more like a stretch of dam where the dirty water collects.
A villager, who preferred anonymity, says even though the licensing of sand mining remain suspended, illegal sand miners reign unabated.
“We always see the trucks loaded with sand coming from that river. I swear that river is no longer in a good state at all. The headman and the police have been encouraging people to report any trucks they see loaded with sand but this has not helped the situation. People are still stealing the sand,” the concerned villager said.
Mogobane headman, Nobe Moilwa, is aware of the illegal mining in his area. He says the two worst affected rivers in the area are Chawe and Taung. Moilwa says it is heartbreaking because now the illegal sand miners are stealing the sand at night. He says the culprits sneak into the rivers at around 8 pm.
“The situation in my village is very heartbreaking because we cannot control these illegal miners. We used to have a police van to monitor illegal sand mining activities. Since two months now we do no longer have the van, because it is being used by the police in Ramotswa,” Moilwa said.
The river that the Kgosi is referring to is some distance away from the village and passes through some Mogobane farms. The road leading to the river shows that it is used regularly which means the practice of illegal sand mining could be very high in the river.
Kenalemang Charles, mining and quarrying engineer at the Department of Mines says that Gaborone and its surrounding villages have been affected badly by illegal sand mining activities. He says Metsimothabe was the first river to be affected leading to the Department of Mines suspending issuance of sand mining permits in the area.
Charles says the first strategy is to engage other stakeholders to help. The police have been roped in to help
“The other strategy is a system where we look at the alternatives, rather than to use the river sand. We encourage people to use manufactured sand which is manufactured from breaking up rocks. Manufactured sand can be found at Kgale quarries. We are trying to promote the use of that sand rather than river sand. We are currently running adverts in the media to emphasise the advantages of using other alternatives of sand rather than destroying the rivers,” Charles said.
The penalties involved in illegal sand mining according to the Mines and Mineral Act, 1999 states that when found with illegal sand a person is liable to pay a P200 fine. The Act is being reviewed to increase the charges. He said they have also engaged the police to help nab the culprits. The police charge the culprits a fine of P1,000 upon admission of guilt and they also confiscate the trucks to use as evidence.
The legislation of sand mining falls under the Mines and Minerals Act (1999), and sand is classified as an industrial mineral under this Act. For one to get a mining license he or she should have a prospecting license which initially gives one the right to survey and assess an area for commercial mining purposes. For industrial minerals, prospecting license attracts a cost of P500. A person issued a mining license is also subjected to pay P100 per square kilometre applied for or part thereof.
The Mines and Minerals Act (1999) also offers a mining permit to a person wishing to conduct small scale mining operations of any mineral other than diamonds over an area not exceeding 0.5 square kilometres per permit. It also states that the minerals permit to exploit industrial minerals shall not be granted to a person who is not a citizen of Botswana.