UK & World News

  • 17 February 2014, 5:51

South Africa: Miners Rescued From Disused Shaft

At least 11 men have been rescued after a group of illegal miners in South Africa became trapped underground in an abandoned gold mine near Johannesburg.

Those brought to the surface were checked by medics before being arrested for illegal mining.

Others were refusing to come out for fear of being detained, it was reported.

Rescue operations ceased as night 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.

An emergency official told the AFP news agency the rescue operation was now over and would not be resumed.

The men had been trapped in the shaft for two days and were discovered by local police patrolling the area after cries for help were heard by passers by.

Rescuers were able to reach the men by lowering a ladder into the shaft after using a crane to remove boulders that had been blocking the entrance.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

Speaking from the scene, Sky's Africa Correspondent Alex Crawford said: "It's a big temptation for people here who are out of work to get access to abandoned shafts because there are minerals down there, but it's unregulated and highly dangerous."

There were claims a group of rival miners had blocked the mine shaft, although it is possible the tunnel collapse was caused by heavy rains.

A Chinese company, Gold One, has prospecting rights to the mine but is not currently working it.

A spokesman for the firm, Grant Stuart, said the miners were trapped in the New Kleinfontein 6 ventilation shaft, which had been closed off with concrete slabs.

"The illegal miners have dug a tunnel right next to it to access the shaft and it has collapsed behind them," he said.

Illegal mining is common in South Africa and often involves miners living underground in dangerous conditions.

Fatalities are frequent and there are sometimes fights underground between rival gangs.

Some 82 men, thought to have been illegal miners, died after an underground fire at a Harmony gold mine in South Africa in 2009.

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