Hawks vow illegal mining crackdown

2014-02-18 21:12

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - The elite police unit, the Hawks, vowed to hunt down illegal mining kingpins on Tuesday, as two bodies were discovered near an abandoned gold mine where dozens of people had been trapped.

Shadrack Sibiya of the police's Hawks unit said illegal mining "cannot be allowed to continue" as the rescue mission entered its third day.

Two dozen illegal miners have emerged from the disused pit east of Johannesburg, risking arrest, a large fine and a possible jail sentence.

"One body was brought to the surface by the miners, we have been unable to get to the second body," said Roggers Mamaila, part of the emergency team trying to coax remaining miners out of the shaft.

It was not immediately clear when the two died, but police suggested there was no link between them and the trapped miners.

The one body hoisted from a nearby mine on Tuesday was in a decomposing state.

"It was wrapped in a blanket," rescue technician David Tshabalala told AFP. "You could smell it."

Police spokesperson Paul Ramaloko said the body was lifted through "a different hole from where the other (surviving) miners were trapped".

"The other is still trapped under a big rock, so they can't retrieve it," he said.

"They were hit by a rock," said Ramaloko.

The illegal miners were apparently excavating in the same mine but used "different shafts", said police.

As young as 13

Police said that 22 of the miners were now expected to appear in court on Wednesday on charges of illegal mining, having given officers information that could crack the gangs they work for.

"We are convinced that information obtained will lead us to the kingpins," Sibiya said.

"We will be going after the masterminds. We cannot allow this to continue."

Police said the arrested men were all aged between 20 and 40, mainly foreign nationals from Mozambique, and most did not have immigration papers.

But among them were also two minors aged 13 and 14 years, who have been released into the custody of their parents.

Emergency responders were still looking for around five more men believed to be hiding underground and fearing arrest.

"That figure is based on the tip-off we received on Sunday... that there were 30 people underground," said Mamaila.

"There is still movement underground, so we expect the last group of people to surrender themselves."

Much of the area around Johannesburg is pockmarked with old shafts, a testament to the city's century-old history of gold mining.

Two weeks

While many are no longer commercially viable, they still contain enough deposits to attract scores of the city's unemployed, and those from much farther afield.

Many shafts include elaborate networks of runners, who bring in food, drinks and other essentials for miners, who police believe spend up to two weeks underground.

Accidents are commonplace. In 2009, 82 illegal diggers died in a disused gold mine shaft when a fire broke out underground.

The most recent rescue effort was launched on Sunday, after cries for help were heard on a dusty patch of grassland in Benoni, east of Johannesburg.

The men became trapped when large rocks fell, or were pushed, to block the entrance to the shaft.

Mine owners Gold One International Limited said on Monday they would reseal the open shaft on 3 March.

Read more on:    hawks  |  johannesburg  |  mining

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.