A group of people believed to be Lesotho nationals fought with guards at Gloria coal mine in an attempt to gain entry into the underground area. Picture: ANA Reporter

Middelburg - A group of people believed to be Lesotho nationals fought with security guards at Gloria coal mine near Middelburg in Mpumalanga last week in an attempt to gain entry into the underground area, the mine's business rescue representative said on Thursday.

Mike Elliot was speaking to reporters inside the mine’s premises where the bodies of six people, suspected to be copper cable thieves, were retrieved from underground. 

He said the suspects descended on the mine armed with knobkieries, guns and other weapons and tried to force their way into the premises.

“They shot at our guards and our dogs and we called the police,” said Elliot.

“They are cable thieves. They don’t mine. They came here to steal copper cables. The theft of copper cables and transformers at this mine is now estimated at R100 million. The problem that we have in this country is that our laws do not stop people from buying second-hand cables.”

Two people were brought to the surface on Wednesday. One of the rescued died on the premises and another died in hospital. Four more bodies were retrieved by rescue workers in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Elliot said the mine was currently owned by the Gupta family. It was placed under business rescue last year.

“The mine is still operational but its personnel were placed on leave in December last year because there are no funds to pay them,” said Elliot.

“The mine went to business rescue because the Gupta family found themselves without a bank account. You cannot do business without a bank account. The creditors also absorbed all the money and the mine can therefore not sustain itself.”

Police could not immediately be reached for comment.

African News Agency (ANA)