East rand illegal miners left underground

By Drum Digital
12 March 2012

The bodies of illegal miners trapped at the Gravelotte gold mine on the East Rand are likely to remain underground, trade union Solidarity said on Monday.

"The tunnel is likely to be sealed off. It is a tragic situation," deputy general secretary Gideon du Plessis said.

He said rescuers were going to recommend to the department of mineral resources on Monday that the shaft should be sealed off because it was too dangerous to recover the bodies. The search for at least 20 illegal miners was called off on Friday.

Du Plessis said the rescue team had said only one body could be recovered because the area was unstable.

The group of men were apparently mining illegally when a fall of rock trapped them underground. Rescuers later found a group of men still mining illegally in the vicinity.

"These men confirmed that at least 20 of their comrades had died in the rockfall," he said.

The rescuers tried to convince the men to leave the area because the mine would be sealed off and they risked being trapped.

Four escaped with R310 worth of gold concentrate. Five agreed to leave the mine on condition they would not be prosecuted. The other 28 illegal miners refused to leave.

Grootvlei mine is owned by President Jacob Zuma's nephew Khulubuse Zuma and former president Nelson Mandela's grandson Zondwa Mandela.

The mine is near Grootvlei, where former Big Brother contestant Brad Wood and four others allegedly shot dead four illegal miners at the embattled Aurora Empowerment Systems mine last year.

Wood, who was head of security at Aurora's Grootvlei mine, and co-accused site manager Nicholas Pretorius, Herbie Trouw, Willem Coetzer and Mickey Mazaan, were found not guilty of murder and attempted murder following the killing, near Springs, in August, 2011.

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