Harmony Gold mine Kusasalethu in Carletonville. 
Photo: Supplied

Johannesburg - The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has learnt with sadness of the five trapped miners at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine in Carletonville, the union said on Saturday.

"Amcu's prayers are with the trapped workers as well as their loved ones. Mining is very unsafe and mineworkers risk life and limb daily to put bread on the table for their families," the union said in a statement.

Amcu regional and branch leadership as, well as its national occupational health and safety (OHS) co-ordinator had been sent to the mine and had been on site since Friday.

"Amcu applauds Harmony management for stopping all operations. According to management the families of the trapped mineworkers have been notified and necessary arrangements have been made. Amcu will monitor the rescue operation while being on site to provide support where necessary.
  
"Amcu will for now focus all attention on the rescue efforts. Once the workers have been rescued and the department of mineral resources (DMR) has concluded its inquiry, Amcu will interrogate the reports and comment on the causes of and solutions to the problems which led to this incident," the union said.

Earlier on Saturday, Harmony Gold said specially trained mine rescue teams had been working throughout the night to rescue five employees trapped underground at Kusasalethu mine.

The incident followed a seismic event, about 3100 metres below the surface at around 10.30am on Friday, which resulted in a fall of ground, Harmony said in a statement. 

“All operations at the mine, other than those related to the rescue, have been suspended. Rescue efforts will continue until the five men have been found. Further information will be released as this becomes available,” Harmony said.

On Friday evening, Harmony spokeswoman Marian van der Walt said rescuers “will search for the employees who are trapped underground until we find them; saving them is our priority at the moment”.

Van der Walt said about 3000 miners were working when sections of the mine collapsed at around 10.30am. She said it was unclear whether the collapse was caused by mining activity or seismic waves.

“All the miners were accounted for except these five miners. We are considering a few options for the rescue while keeping the safety of everyone in mind.”

She said the five miners had their safety packs with them.