Kleinzee mine rescue operation ends

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kleinzee mine Michael Walker Rescue workers try to figure out the best way to try to reach diggers trapped underground at the Bontekoe mine. Photo: Micheal Walker

A search for people possibly trapped after tunnels collapsed in a disused diamond mine near Kleinzee in the Northern Cape ended on Thursday, police said.

“Rescuers have opened all possible openings and there are definitely no more people in the mine,” Lt-Col Hendrik Swart said.

“Initially the illegal miners claimed that there were more people so the rescue and recovery operations continued, but all illegally excavated tunnels were found and searched.”

Swart said an inquest docket was opened.

“The bodies were transported to Cape Town where an autopsy will be done on each of them,” he said.

“Forensic tests will also be done to assist with the identification of the bodies. This will include the taking of fingerprints as well as DNA testing.”

By Saturday evening, the bodies of ten illegal miners had been recovered from the mine.

Tunnels at the mine collapsed at 3pm on May 22 after the mine closed the tunnels in April.

Eleven illegal diggers (also known in SA as “zama zamas”) reportedly escaped and alerted the police. The collapsed hole was about six metres deep and led to several tunnels and an underground waiting area.

Swart said rescue and recovery teams would leave the area, but the De Beers mining company remained at the scene and continued with mining activities. - Sapa


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