Zama Zama rescue mission on hold - Zwane

2016-09-12 16:00
Two miners have been arrested and taken in for questioning at the Langlaagte Police station. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

Two miners have been arrested and taken in for questioning at the Langlaagte Police station. (Iavan Pijoos, News24)

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Johannesburg - No untrained person should put their lives at risk to try and rescue a group of illegal miners in Langlaagte, Johannesburg, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane said on Monday.

“We request the community and family of the trapped miners to work together and not send any untrained person down this dangerous area to rescue the miners,” Zwane said.

The rescue mission was put on hold due to a fire underground.

“The situation is not safe to send rescuers down. We also have to think about our rescue team and their safety,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, three illegal miners, commonly known as “zama-zamas” were arrested at the disused mineshaft and taken for questioning at the Langlaagte police station.

Police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubela said four miners rescued on Sunday were also arrested.

Difficult breathing

Another three miners escaped. Makhubela said they could not be considered to have escaped since police were not around at the time.

He could not confirm how many were still trapped in the shaft.

Johannesburg emergency services spokesperson Synock Matobako said one miner died from carbon monoxide poisoning underground. He said he knew of at least five men still trapped.

On Wednesday morning, a group of miners went into the shaft. It was unclear how many were in this group.

On Thursday, 16 miners went down to look for them. Only eight surfaced. Another eight people went down on Saturday morning to help with the search. Only four returned on Sunday.

Police were called and the rescue got underway.

The four miners who returned on Sunday said they felt weak and dizzy and that smoke underground made breathing difficult.

The relatives of some of the men had been at the mine since Sunday, waiting for any news.

Zwane said most of the illegal miners were not South Africans.

“Some of them are even under the age of 12 years.”

They would continue going underground as long as there was a market for the gold they were mining, he said.

Increasing the sentences for illegal mining from two months to eight years had not helped.

“It does not deter illegal miners to open up holes again, because they know the areas.”

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