Twelve illegal miners rescued in South Africa, others stay underground

BENONI, South Africa Sun Feb 16, 2014 1:05pm EST

1 of 7. A suspected illegal miner talks to officials after being rescued from an abandoned gold shaft in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, February 16, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

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BENONI, South Africa (Reuters) - A dozen South African illegal miners were brought to the surface on Sunday after being trapped in an abandoned gold mine near Johannesburg, but an unknown number remained underground because they feared arrest, an emergency services spokesman said.

"Twelve have been rescued so far," ER24 spokesman Werner Vermaak told Reuters.

Those brought to the surface were checked by medics and then handed over to the police. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

Rescue operations ceased as darkness fell but private mine security guards were stationed around the shaft and police were also on hand to arrest any other miners who came out.

A police patrol in the semi-rural Johannesburg suburb of Benoni, where gold has been mined for decades, had been alerted by shouts from the trapped miners.

Vermaak initially said some of the trapped group had told rescuers that 200 more illegal diggers were deeper in the mine, and the exact number who remained was not known.

A crane was used to shift a large concrete slab that was obstructing the shaft belonging to the Chinese-owned bullion producer Gold One, which has prospecting rights to the mine but is not currently working it.

Illegal mining of abandoned shafts is common in South Africa, where informal miners excavate ore to sell, often living underground in dangerous and precarious conditions. Fatal accidents are common, and underground battles between rival groups have also been reported.

Gold One spokesman Grant Stuart said the miners had been trapped in the "New Kleinfontein 6" ventilation shaft.

"The illegal miners have dug a tunnel right next to it to access the shaft and it has collapsed behind them," he said, adding that heavy rain may have triggered the collapse.

Gold One delisted last month from the Johannesburg and Australian bourses after all of its share capital was acquired by BCX Gold Investment Holdings, a Chinese consortium.

(Additional reporting by Pascal Fletcher, Ed Stoddard and Mish Molakeng; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Comments (4)
2Borknot2B wrote:
Chinese Orks running amuck raping and pillaging the planet.

Feb 16, 2014 12:22pm EST  --  Report as abuse
WhyMeLord wrote:
If the Chinese collect all the world’s gold, they’d still be Chinese.
Yep, it’s still impossible to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
Left to their own devices, the Chinese will own the whole planet, and we’re dumb enough to sell it to them and make a quick profit.
The last laugh will come when they decide to keep it all themselves.
As always, they that end up with all the toys wins the whole game.

Feb 16, 2014 6:27pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Randy549 wrote:
In keeping with political correctness, surely the proper term has to be “undocumented” miners rather than illegal.

Feb 16, 2014 9:55pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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