Illegal miners in South Africa trapped in gold mine

February 17, 2014

The troubling issues that go along with illegal mining in South Africa came under the spotlight of worldwide attention after an unknown number of miners refused to be rescued from an abandoned gold mine near Johannesburg. A dozen miners were brought to the surface following a incident at the mine, but fearing arrest, many more stayed underground, Reuters reported.

Those brought to the surface were checked by medics and then handed over to the police. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.
A police patrol in the semi-rural Johannesburg suburb of Benoni, where gold has been mined for decades, had been alerted by shouts from the trapped miners.

ER24 spokesman Werner Vermaak told Reuters that some of the trapped group had told rescuers that 200 more illegal diggers were deeper in the mine, and the exact number who remained was not known.

A crane was used to shift a large concrete slab that was obstructing the shaft belonging to the Chinese-owned bullion producer Gold One, which has prospecting rights to the mine but is not currently working it.

Illegal mining of abandoned shafts is common in South Africa, where informal miners excavate ore to sell, often living underground in dangerous and precarious conditions. Fatal accidents are common, and underground battles between rival groups have also been reported.

Gold One spokesman Grant Stuart said the miners had been trapped in the "New Kleinfontein 6" ventilation shaft.
 

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