Hopes for more illegal miners to surface voluntarily

2014-02-18 10:04

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Ekurhuleni emergency services said they were hoping for another 10 to 15 illegal miners to voluntarily surface from inside an abandoned Gold One mine shaft in Benoni on the East Rand.

With the search for miners suspended, rescue technician David Tshabalala said rescue workers and the SA Police Service would meet to discuss what to do next.

The community of illegal miners was discovered on Sunday when Ekurhuleni metro police were patrolling the area and heard screaming from the abandoned mine.

A rival group threw boulders down the open mine shaft, trapping the miners underground, said ER24 spokesperson Werner Vermaak.

Eleven people were rescued and arrested.

They are expected to appear in the Benoni Magistrates’ Court today on charges of illegal mining.

The remaining miners appeared to be reluctant to surface, fearing they too would be arrested and yesterday one of the 22 who had surfaced returned underground to talk to his colleagues to convince them to come out.

It is unclear how many are still underground.

Tshabalala said the mineral resources department plans to close the opened shaft in a bid to stop illegal mining, and gave the miners notice about this yesterday.

“We will give those underground ample time to get out, but will have to close it,” he said.

Emergency services suspended their operations at 6.15pm yesterday, but police and mine security planned to remain overnight.

Tshabalala said the 11 who resurfaced yesterday were not injured. They were handed to police after medical checks.He said some of the illegal miners came halfway up the shaft, but then turned around.

Rescuers could not go down the shaft because it was too dangerous.

“There is an opening and we sent a chain down that we can pull them up with,” he said.

Food and water was sent down to the miners on Sunday, but they could be running low.

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