Around 900 miners remained trapped underground at the Sibanye-Stillwater Beatrix gold mine in Free State as rescue operations continued. File picture

Johannesburg - Around 900 miners remained trapped underground on Thursday at the Sibanye-Stillwater Beatrix gold mine in South Africa's Free State province as rescue operations continued. Between 940 and 950 miners were trapped in the Beatrix mine's Shaft 2 and Shaft 3 on Wednesday night when their elevator shut down during a power outage in a thunderstorm.

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu told African News Agency that the miners were trapped after "the cage takes the workers to the surface stopped working because of a power failure". 

Mammburu said it was not known exactly how many workers were trapped despite earlier media reports of 950 miners being trapped and 65 having been rescued. 

"We were just informed by our members on the ground. They are saying that the number is more than that (950)," he said. "Our information is they are using a generator to try and power those shafts but they are rescuing them one at a time."

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said that 40 workers at Shaft 2 have been rescued and brought back to the surface, while the miners at Shaft 3 still remain underground. 

The union said that this incident was as a result of the sheer number of workers involved and has called on Sibanye-Stillwater management to step up its rescue efforts. 

Amcu said that Sibanye-Stillwater needed to mobilise all resources to rescue the workers as soon as possible and questioned the lack of contingency plans in place to deal with this type of incidents.

"It is common cause that lives might already be threatened due to dehydration and blood sugar issues because of lacking nutrition. It is also quite common for adults to be on chronic medication, and it is highly probable that there are some workers who are trapped without access to their medicine," Amcu said in a statement. 

"This incident also raises serious concern regarding the lacking emergency contingency plans at the mine for alternative and back-up power generation. Amcu received reports that the mine is now attempting to borrow a generator from Harmony." 

African News Agency/ANA