Gloria mine death toll rises to 6, as poisonous gas halts rescue efforts

2019-02-08 10:24
Gloria mine shaft (Twitter)

Gloria mine shaft (Twitter)

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The death toll at the Gloria coal mine near Middelburg in Mpumalanga has risen to six and rescue efforts have for now been halted owing to a plethora of dangers.

Rescue operations have been hampered by damage inflicted by the alleged copper thieves, who reportedly entered the mine on Sunday and Monday.

Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi told News24 on Friday that a statement would be issued to update the media and public, but that for the time being, the search-and-rescue operation to bring what is believed to be 22 people to ground had been abandoned.

On Monday, 42 men entered the mine shaft which has not been in operation for months.

They are reportedly Lesotho nationals, the Middelburg Observer reported.

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

The mine was owned by the Gupta family and has been placed under business rescue.

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

'They shot at our guards'

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 into the underground area.

The mine's business rescue representative, Mike 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 powerlines 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."

According to Elliot, rescue teams first need to restore power to ensure ventilation is restored and then remove the toxic gases from underground, EWN reported.

"The transformers that these guys have destroyed, they've cut open the transformers and cut the copper out of them… They dug up the main cables that supply the fans, they've copped them up and ran away with them. They destroyed the substation's switchgear that controls the fans," he reportedly said.



Read more on:    mbombela  |  search and rescue  |  accidents  |  mining  |  illegal mining

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