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Bodies of 8 miners found after mine fire

By admin
06 February 2014

The bodies of eight missing miners have been found after a fire broke out at Harmony Gold's Doornkop gold mine, west of Johannesburg, the mineral resources department said on Thursday.

"One missing worker had still not been found at the time of issuing the statement," the department said.

A fire broke out on level 192 of the mine, roughly 1 733 metres underground, at about 18:00 on Tuesday after a seismic event triggered a fall of ground.

Eighteen people were reported missing at the end of the shift on Tuesday night.

Nine unharmed

One miner came out in the early hours of Wednesday. He gave rescue workers the location of other miners he had seen underground.

Eight other miners were brought to the surface later on Wednesday and were all unharmed. Nine miners were still unaccounted for at the time.

The chief mine inspector said that once the last miner had been found, the search and rescue team would need to make sure the fire had been extinguished, the department said on Thursday.

After that, an on-the-spot inspection would take place. The results of the inspection would help determine what steps the department needed to take next.

Harmony spokesperson James Duncan confirmed eight bodies had been recovered.

He said on Wednesday that the underground fire had been subdued although conditions remained challenging.

All operations at the mine, other than essential services, were suspended on Wednesday night.

Condolences

Harmony's CEO Graham Briggs, board and management extended their condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the men who died.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was extremely saddened by the deaths of the eight miners.

"[This is] really bad news for us as the NUM, families of the deceased, department of mineral resources and the South African public," acting spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said.

NUM health and safety secretary Erick Gcilitshana said: "We pass our deepest condolences to the families of the deceased. One death is one death too many."

The union called on the mineral resources department to trigger its investigation into the accident, with NUM ready to participate to leave no stone unturned.

Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said the situation was deeply regrettable.

"The health and safety of workers is of paramount importance to us as the regulator of this sector," she said.

"We must ensure that we do all we can to get to the bottom of what caused this incident, in order to prevent similar occurrences in future.”

- SAPA