February has been a deadly month in the mining industry with at least 26 workers, both legal and illegal, killed underground.

At the beginning of the month, mines belonging to magnate Patrice Motsepe were in the spotlight after nine workers were killed. Their deaths followed a rockfall which triggered a fire at Harmony Gold’s Doornkop mine. The fatalities sparked outrage, with Cosatu calling for a probe.

As compensation, Motsepe pledged R75 000 towards the education of each child of the nine miners.

In the same week, two more Harmony Gold mineworkers were killed in separate accidents – one at the Kusasalethu mine in North West and the other at Joel mine in the Free State.

Harmony chief executive Graham Briggs said the deaths were unacceptable.

In the following week, a group of about 200 illegal miners were trapped in an abandoned mine shaft in Benoni, on the East Rand. Two men were killed.

It was unclear whether any more miners had died, resurfaced, or were still underground, as rescue operations were abandoned.

In the Free State, the naked bodies of two people, suspected to be illegal miners from Lesotho, were found in a shaft at the Eland mine in Welkom.

In Roodepoort, the number of illegal miners found dead rose to 11 yesterday. Most had died from toxic gases, paramedics said. – Sapa