Botswana’s Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources is trying to curb illegal river sand mining by encouraging the use of manufactured sand.
The three-pronged strategy, according to ministry permanent secretary Kgomotso Abi, entails enforcing adherence to regulations by sand mining permit holders, demarcating mining sites for permit holders, and requiring applicants to carry out prospecting to determine quantities of sand before being issued with sand mining permits.
Making submissions before the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday (September 16), Abi said the strategy will assist to control river sand mining.
“Illegal sand mining is an issue for the ministry. The ministry will continue to inform the public about its consequences and alternatives to the use of river sand,” he said.
The ministry is looking at introducing stiffer penalties on river sand thieves, including confiscating their equipment, he said.
“We are considering confiscating equipment used by illegal operators to make them realise that illegal sand mining is a serious crime which impacts on the economy,” Abi said.
Another measure taken to control excessive sand mining, according to Abi, was encouraging licensed quarries to manufacture sand using rocks to relieve pressure on the river system.
He said they started a 12 months trial on the use of manufactured sand for plastering buildings last year in December. When asked by PAC chairperson, Abram Kesupile about their sand theft monitoring strategies, Abi said the Department of Mines will monitor mines every quarter. He said this is because they have insufficient staff for more drquebnt inspections.
The committee also expressed concerns about companies that fail to rehabilitate the environment after completing sand mining.
Committee member, MP Samson Guma-Moyo said there are many dangerous burrow pits left by companies in the Francistown area after mining sand. Abi said there are 149 burrow pits not rehabilitated around the country, while 1,012 have been rehabilitated.