Tenth miner rescued

2012-05-24 07:09

Rescuers have brought a tenth illegal miner to the surface from a disused gold mine near Welkom in the Free State.

The police’s Colonel Sam Makhele said the rescue effort would continue as long as the situation was safe at the disused Harmony Gold mine.

At least 20 men were believed to be underground.

The rescued miners would be charged with tresspassing.

Earlier, Makhele said the police and rescue personnel were only focusing on getting trapped “zama-zamas”, as illegal miners are called in the industry, out of the mine.

There was no indication of possible casualties.

Two illegal miners raised the alarm on Tuesday, saying fellow miners were trapped underground following a rockfall in the early hours.

Police said they told authorities they were digging for gold in the disused Harmony mine when parts of it began to cave in.

“We still have to establish what exactly happened, but the situation is considered too dangerous to send an expert down to see what caused the problem,” Makhele said yesterday.

The company had sealed the mine but illegal miners, many of them from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho, had burrowed in without legal supervision.

Meanwhile three illegal diamond diggers were confirmed dead yesterday by rescue workers who have been struggling since Tuesday to free 19 diggers trapped at an old mine near Kleinzee in the Northern Cape.

Provincial police spokesperson Cherelle Ehlers said one digger had been rescued. “He sustained minor injuries and was treated for shock,” she said.

Ehlers said the body of another digger was also recovered and two other bodies “are visible, but the unstable conditions are preventing rescue workers from retrieving” them.

Ehlers said the police got information at approximately 3am on Tuesday that some of the tunnels at the old mine had collapsed and 19 diggers were trapped.

She said 11 illegal diggers managed to escape and contacted the police. The tunnels of the mine were closed for operations more than a month ago.

Polla van Reenen, a resident and miner, said familieswere flocking to police offices in the region to get news about family members who were reported missing.

He said the trapped diggers were from all over the region and people were beginning to “fear the worst because their loved ones were now trapped for more than 24 hours”.

Abraham Maritz, a resident from Steinkopf, said his family is very worried.

“My uncle George and his son, Amos, are believed to be trapped in the mine,” he said. Maritz said George and Amos were part of a group of diggers who were at the old mine.

He said the rest of the group were part of the 11 diggers who managed to escape, but there was still no word on his uncle and nephew.

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