Gold, Platinum Thieves Striking S. African Mines

Criminal syndicates are stealing up to 10% of all gold produced in South Africa's mines, according to Gold Fields Ltd., the country's second ranking miner. The 45 tons annual loss is valued at close to US$400 million. International gangs have been identified as the perpetrators of the huge thefts. To combat the gold drain, the mining companies have set up an emergency task force that is working with the South African police and Interpol, the international police body. Contract killings are frequent whenever key employees refuse to take bribes or bow to intimidation. The South African gold thieves now have platinum - even more valuable than gold - in their sights. At Amplat, the country's largest platinum group, one employee in 10 is working on security. Gold companies are an easier target because there are more vulnerable links in the production chain. A smart thief can stroll through tunnels that link old gold mines, hack away at seams over night, and stroll out with his booty before breakfast. Platinum thieves prefer to wait till the final refinery stage.

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