newsReuters reports that the first South African project to bring illegal miners into the formal fold has been plagued by violence dealing a major blow to national efforts to stem a booming illicit trade.  

The project was launched 18 months ago in Kimberley.  Mine owners granted more than 800 unlicensed, or informal, small-scale miners the right to legally mine about 600ha of diamond-rich waste fields.  The aim of the government-backed scheme was to curb illegal mining and black-market trade of diamonds, and serve as a blueprint for future attempts elsewhere in the country, not only in the diamond sector, but also potentially manganese, gold and chrome.  However the project has been hit by violence, with informal miners not included in the scheme attacking infrastructure and even members of the newly licensed co-operative, according to mine owner Ekapa Minerals, which is running the initiative.  The failure thus far of this pilot scheme is a blow to wider corporate and governmental efforts to bring SA’s estimated tens of thousands of informal miners, or “zama-zamas”, into the mainstream, to boost productivity and curb crime.  While the government has always acted in an advisory capacity, it indicated it might now be forced to take a more active role in the project, the first to attempt so-called formalisation in the mining industry.  The project’s woes show the urgent need for the government to provide clear policy on small-scale or “artisanal” mining using rudimentary techniques, campaigners say.

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