South African police arrested 20 Sibanye Gold Ltd. mineworkers yesterday for allegedly stealing ore at a processing plant west of Johannesburg.
It was the biggest mass-arrest of mineworkers for gold theft in post-apartheid South Africa, Paul Ramaloko, a spokesman for the country’s anti-corruption police unit known as the Hawks, said by phone. Previous arrests have focused on illegal miners not employed by companies, he said.
The men work at Driefontein metallurgical plant, which helps to process gold ore, and were arrested after a six-month investigation involving Sibanye’s internal security team. Some of the proceeds from sales of the illicit bullion were funeled into “luxurious lifestyles” at the men’s countryside homes, Ramaloko said.
“We commend our internal investigation team and the South African police for the breakthrough in the case,” said Thabisile Phumo, a spokeswoman for Sibanye, the largest producer of gold in the country last year. “We are aware of the activities of organized crime syndicates and remain vigilant against any illegal activities around our operations.”
Phumo declined to comment on the value of the gold allegedly stolen. South Africa’s apartheid system of racial segregation ended in 1994 with the country’s first democratic elections.