No place to hide for illegals

2016-04-06 06:00

THE eruption of deadly methane gas underground at abandoned mine shafts in Welkom and Virginia has forced a large group of illegal miners to surface, unfortunately with no place to hide.

The Welkom police arrested ­approximately 366 of these illegal gold miners. They are currently being detained in different Free State prisons, since police holding cells in Welkom, Odendaalsrus and Virginia cannot accommodate them all. Some are kept in holding cells in Ventersburg and Henneman.

The illegal miners, known as zama-zamas, are all men.

They are expected to re-appear in the Welkom Magistrate’s Court soon.

The suspects are charged with trespassing, illicit gold mining, attempting to mine illegally on mine property and illegal immigration into South Africa.

Police investigations revealed that the suspects originated from Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The hearings of the illegal gold miners have resulted in an increase in the workload of employees of the Justice Department in Welkom.

Special arrangements had to be made to secure interpreters speaking languages understood and spoken by some of these illegal miners.

Capt. Stephen Thakeng, the Welkom police spokesperson, said the suspects had been arrested as they came to the surface at the various disused mine shafts within Welkom and Virginia. They were forced to come to the surface because of the eruption and spread of dangerous methane gas underground.

He said the latest group of illegal miners could be the largest that had been apprehended so far.

Previous figures ranged between 150 and 200.

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