Illegal gold panners may be causing untold damage to the country’s rivers but illegal buyers are cashing in on these desperate villagers who are now selling the precious metal at ridiculously low prices just to afford a bucket or a packet of mealie meal.
Some people even argue that it is the illegal buyers who are promoting illegal panning as they travel to the illegal operations to buy the gold on the spot thus providing a ready market for the panners but at the same time costing the country about $100 million in lost gold.
While a gramme of gold should sell for between $60 and $70 the buyers are offering as little as $20 on a take-or-leave-it basis as there are too many illegal panners desperate not only to get rid of the gold to feed their families.
And for the first time, a senior mining official has pointed out that “big shots” could be involved in buying and smuggling gold.
Former president of the Chamber of Mines, Rodney Banks, said recently he believed diplomatic bags were being used to ferry chunks of gold to certain countries.
He even suggested that a feasibility study be conducted to halt the illegal trade as a number of illegal smelting plants had also mushroomed around the country.
Reports of the involvement of big guns in the illegal buying and selling of gold have been circulating for some time with reports that a lot of Mercedes Benz executive cars are seen at night where illegal gold panning is rife.
A London confidential also reported two years ago that a South African citizen who was owed some money by leading politicians here had sent out a letter threatening to expose how these people used diplomatic bags to smuggle gold into that country where they had also opened accounts if they did not pay up their debts.
Although the confidential tracked down the person he declined he was the author of the letter yet it bore his name and signature and the phone number he could be contacted on.