Johannesburg - The search for a missing miner at Harmony’s Doornkop gold mine, west of Joburg, continued late into Thursday night.
This comes after eight of the missing miners’ bodies were found late on Wednesday night.
On Tuesday, a 2.4 magnitude tremor resulted in a rockfall which damaged electric cables and started a fire.
About 135 miners were underground at the time of the tremor. Most managed to get to safety before the fire started, leaving 17 miners stranded 1 730m underground.
On Wednesday morning, eight miners were brought to safety and taken to hospital for overnight observation for smoke inhalation.
Four of them have still not been discharged.
The eight bodies found on Wednesday night remained underground until Thursday afternoon, when they were brought to the surface.
Harmony Gold executive chairman Patrice Motsepe said they had hoped the miners would come out alive.
“The death of any single worker is totally unacceptable,” he said at a media briefing.
Chief executive Graham Briggs said the dead miners remained underground because rescue teams had to collect evidence that would be used in the investigation.
He said the rockfall happened on level 192 of the mine, which was about 1 730m from the surface.
The rescue teams had to relocate to level 197, which is about 80m from level 192.
Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said departmental inspectors were at the site and the investigation would lead to an inquiry, which would be followed by a legal process.
“The incident is a lesson for us all,” she said. “The gold industry has over the past five years improved its health and safety standards tremendously, and for such an incident to occur is obviously a setback.”
The families of the dead started to arrive at the mine on Thursday afternoon and were immediately taken for counselling.
Briggs said a team of doctors and paramedics were at the mine to provide assistance to the families.
Burial arrangements were also being made with the families.
According to the National Union of Mineworkers’ secretary for health and safety, Eric Gcilitshana, one of the dead miners had been based in Westonaria, three were from the Eastern Cape and the other four were from Mozambique and Lesotho.
NUM deputy president Thamsanqa Matosa said a mineworkers’ provident fund would assist the dependants.
He said NUM was still shocked by the incident and would participate in the investigation.
Matosa said he was impressed that Harmony had taken full responsibility to ensure an investigation took place.
A full investigation will begin as soon as the missing miner is found.
Work at the shaft has ceased until the investigation is completed.