From the moment you commence exploration, obtain mining rights or establish your gold mining operations you will attract illegal mining activity. These are those that operate without the same rules, approvals, safety, equipment and permissions as your approved business entity. They may range from a few random individuals panning in creek beds to groups using gold detection equipment all the way up to those running full scale underground/above ground mining operations supported by local officials. The impact and issues associated with these illegal mining entities also varies in scale.

Before the business [especially security] start running around chasing individuals, building fences, arming guards or implementing other physical security measures, it is imperative that an economic review of the illegal activities is conducted first. This boils down to understanding what the legitimate gold mining enterprise is loosing as a result of these actions, what profits are lost, operational impacts and other business orientated impacts resulting from illegal mining activities. This review should also include graduated value and geographical areas. For example, loss of a few grams here and there in outlying, remote areas may not be as significant or costly as sizeable losses from high grade ore stockpiles, the mill or gold room operations.

Although initial illegal mining activities may appear random, unsophisticated and overall produce low yield for the individuals involved, it will evolve. Especially if/when it becomes economically viable for those involved. This isn’t defined by what the legitimate gold producing operations deems as economically viable, it is determined by local, regional and even national economics. It may be more profitable to steal from your mining lease/area than to work as a farmer, factory worker or other local employment/business activities. Once a specific tipping point is reached [this should be forecasted in advance] then the illegal mining activities will take on a much different form. It will be organized [even if not visibly so], it will become more technical/sophisticated in nature, it will scale up in numbers of people involved, there will be local authority endorsement/involvement and ultimately, it will become political in some shape or form. This is when minor nuisances can evolve to the point where it threatens your entire enterprise and rights of access/work, etc.

The real threat and issues begins for gold mining operations 50-100km from your mining site, not at the edge of your perimeter or within the confines of your operational areas. This must be the start point of your analysis and investigation. This will also be your first point of interdiction or other corrective actions.

Referring back to the advice provided on stakeholder management, this facet of the stakeholder landscape must also be mapped and studied in detail. How does it interact or connect with other stakeholders? Who is the leadership? Who really benefits? All this should be mapped and documented and updated with input from community affairs, HR, security, and operations on a routine basis.

Whilst illegal mining can appear [or be prioritized by management] as the primary role for security and the single biggest potential for loss by the gold mining enterprise….it rarely is. Don’t get drawn into the visual distraction and insistence of others when addressing this security issue at both strategic and tactical levels. I guarantee there are greater economic losses and inefficiencies within the business than illegal miners. Illegal miners can often offer the smoke screen needed by others to profit and conduct their own “theft”, all the while appearing to be an ally in the pursuit and control of illegal miners. Illegal mining activities may even be manipulated, even to the point of crisis/demonstration/violence in order for other less obvious individuals and subtle threats to continue with their own illegal and criminal activities. Broaden your gaze and you will see it. Tread carefully though, these threats are likely to have internal stakeholders who will not take kindly to your actions to preserve and protect the companies resources, assets and operating capital.

Tony Ridley

Travel Safety Experts
Travel Safety Experts

Travel health, safety, security and risk management experts