Hopes for more illegal miners to surface

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IOL pic feb17 benoni illegal miners rescued Reuters Rescue officials remove a rock from an abandoned gold shaft as they work to rescue trapped illegal miners in Benoni, Johannesburg. Photo: Mike Hutchings

Johannesburg - Ekurhuleni emergency services said they were hoping for another 10 to 15 illegal miners to voluntarily surface from inside an abandoned Gold One mine shaft in Benoni on the East Rand on Tuesday.

With the search for miners suspended, rescue technician David Tshabalala said rescue workers and the SA Police Service would meet to discuss what to do next.

The community of illegal miners was discovered on Sunday when Ekurhuleni metro police were patrolling the area and heard screaming from the abandoned mine.

A rival group threw boulders down the open mine shaft, trapping the miners underground, said ER24 spokesman Werner Vermaak.

Eleven people were rescued at the time and arrested.

They are expected to appear in the Benoni Magistrate's Court on Tuesday on charges of illegal mining.

The miners appeared to be reluctant to surface, fearing they too would be arrested and on Monday one of the 22 who had surfaced returned underground to talk to his colleagues to convince them to surface too.

It is unclear how many are still underground.

Tshabalala said the mineral resources department plans to close the opened shaft in a bid to stop illegal mining, and gave the miners notice about this on Monday.

“We will give those underground ample time to get out, but will have to close it,” he said.

By 6.15pm on Monday, emergency services suspended their operations with police and mine security planning to remain overnight.

He said the 11 who resurfaced on Monday were not injured. They were handed to police after medical checks.

Tshabalala said it was unclear how many illegal miners were still underground because those who resurfaced could not provide them with numbers. Earlier he said some of the illegal miners came halfway up the shaft, but then turned around.

Rescuers could not go down the shaft because it was too dangerous.

“There is an opening and we sent a chain down that we can pull them up with,” he said.

Food and water was sent down to the miners on Sunday, but they could be running low. - Sapa



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