Disgruntled unpaid mineworkers allegedly hampering rescue efforts at Gloria coal mine

2019-02-11 11:42
Gloria mine shaft (Twitter)

Gloria mine shaft (Twitter)

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

The fate of approximately 22 alleged copper thieves trapped underground hangs in the balance as rescue efforts are allegedly being hampered by disgruntled unpaid mineworkers.

"They have threatened us and the contractors and they've told us under no circumstances are we allowed to continue [rescue efforts]," the mine's business rescue representative Mike Elliot told eNCA on Sunday.

A group of 42 men, reportedly Lesotho nationals, gained access to shafts at the Gloria coal mine near Middelburg in Mpumalanga last weekend, allegedly to steal copper cables.

News24 reported that following a gas explosion, 20 members of the group managed to reach safety, leaving the remaining 22 trapped underground.

The mine was owned by the Gupta family and was placed under business rescue in 2018.

Since the closure of the mine in September last year, hundreds of miners have not been paid their salaries, apparently leading to an increase in cable theft.

Workers unpaid since October

Six of the men have since been confirmed dead. Rescue efforts have been halted temporarily because of the threat of various dangers, including damage inflicted by the alleged copper thieves.

Police spokesperson Leonard Hlathi told News24 on Monday that while there was a strong police presence at the mine, rescue operations had been halted for the time being.

Hlathi referred all questions to mine management.

News24 could not reach Elliot for comment.

In an interview on eNCA on Sunday evening, Elliot said disgruntled mineworkers had not been paid since October last year.

"This is because the business rescue process has not been completed," Elliot said.

"The mines need to be sold in order for the money to come in [to pay the workers]," Elliot said.

Rescue money all spent

Asked whether there was no budget or contingency plan to save the trapped men, Elliot said the required money had already been spent.

"We've obtained the necessary kit required to establish power to the mine and we've borrowed transformers from other mines.

"We can switch on the fans and freshen the air underground [to] go in and recover the people that are underground.

"But at this point we are awaiting the outcome of a meeting between the MECs and the unions to resolve the issue of payment so that we can continue with the rescue operation."

Elliot said the men were typically lowered down the 127m-deep shafts with ropes and stay underground on shifts for up to two days as they strip and cut copper.

On Thursday, IOL reported that the alleged copper thieves had fought with security guards at the mine last week in an attempt to gain entry to the underground area.

Rescuers threatened

Elliot told reporters inside the mine's premises on Thursday that the group had arrived at the mine armed with knobkieries, guns and other weapons, and had tried to force their way into the premises.

"They shot at our guards and our dogs and we called the police," Elliot reportedly said.

Elliot told EWN: "The mine does not have any power. The copper thieves have cut the main cable and they've dropped the main overhead power lines and there's no air underground. So, as a result of them cutting the copper, the mine filled up with methane gas and there was an explosion which has replaced the oxygen in the mine with carbon monoxide, which is an instantly poisonous gas."

Elliot estimated that it would take four to six days to "recover the [remaining] bodies".

According to ANA, Elliot said: "They are cable thieves. They don't mine. They came here to steal copper cables. The theft of copper cables and transformers at this mine is now estimated at R100m."

Read more on:    mbombela  |  mine rescue  |  crime
NEXT ON NEWS24X

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.

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

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.

Settings

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.