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Villagers in row over illegal miners

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

MASERU — Villagers from Sekubu, one of the impoverished villages in Butha-Buthe, have asked a councilor to stop illegal miners from extracting diamonds at a hill in their community.

According to one of the area councilors, Matona Chitja, a group of people who include South Africans started mining diamonds while preparations were under way to open a legal operation.

Chitja said the villagers realised that some people were already extracting the diamonds yet a legitimate process to set up a mine was already in progress.

“They erected corrugated iron cottages at the site without anyone’s approval.

“When the chief of the area summoned them to his office, they told him that they were licensed by the Ministry of Mining to go on with the extraction,” Chitja said.

“They said they had already found diamonds and had taken them to the ministry,” he said.

He said it was discovered that the alleged illegal miners had only applied for a contract to extract the mineral but had not yet secure approval.

“During a meeting with some officers from the ministry, the police and the men we heard that they were not licensed to mine the diamond,” he said.

They defended themselves by claiming that they had misunderstood a communication from the Ministry of Mines and concluded that they were licensed to find the stones.

Chitja said the police said they were going to investigate the matter and would report back to the community.

He said they had a tough time calming down upset villagers who wanted to take matters in their own hands by confiscating machinery that the miners used.

Senior Superintendent Motebang Mphahama of the Butha-Buthe police said it has been over three weeks now since the people were ordered to stop the mining.

Mphahama said police investigations were still going on with the police demanding that the men to produce the mining licenses that they claim the ministry issued them with.

“We have asked them to bring the licenses.

They will be inspected by the ministry of mining to see legitimacy. If they are legal they will be allowed to go on with their work,” Mphahama said.

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