February 5, 2016 / 9:01 AM / 3 years ago

Three missing, 87 rescued after South Africa mine collapse

An ambulance leaves the Lily mine, which is owned by Vantage Goldfields, near Barberton, east of Johannesburg, February 5, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

LILY GOLD MINE, South Africa (Reuters) - Almost 90 miners were rescued and three other workers were missing after a cave-in at a gold mine in the northeast of South Africa on Friday, mine owner Vantage Goldfields VTGFF.PK said.

The collapse at the mine’s main entrance trapped 87 workers underground, all of whom were rescued, the small gold producer said in a statement, but three others who had been working on the surface at the time could not be accounted for.

No fatalities were reported. Work at the mine was suspended pending investigation on what caused the collapse, Vantage said.

“The three missing are office workers, not miners. We are not going to rest until we find them,” Mike Begg told reporters at the mine near the town of Barberton in Mpumalanga province, about 360 km (225 miles) east of Johannesburg.

Reporters were not allowed near the site where the cave-in occurred, and a crowd stood outside the perimeter fence awaiting word on the results of rescue attempts.

Vantage Goldfields is an Australia-based company mining gold at Barberton, a town that traces its origin to South Africa’s 19th century gold rush. Vantage was delisted from the Australian bourse in January 2015.

“At this point, it’s unclear what caused the disaster,” Manzini Zungu, a spokesman for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, said.

South Africa’s mines are the deepest and among the most dangerous in the world. The number of deaths in the industry has fallen due to both improved safety practices and a reduction in the labor force as production declines.

Last year, 77 workers were killed in mining accidents, the lowest number on record, compared with 84 in 2014.

Additional reporting by Zandi Shabalala, TJ Strydom and Johannesburg newsroom; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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