16 February 2014

South Africa: Benoni Miners Charged

Photo: photosmith2011
Typical tunnel at Mopani Copper Mine.

Johannesburg — Eleven illegal miners who were rescued from an abandoned mine in Benoni on the East Rand have been charged, Gauteng police said on Monday.

"They will be appearing in the Benoni Magistrate's Court [on Tuesday] on charges of illegal mining," said Lt-Col Katlego Mogale.

The group was in police custody.

They were brought up from the mine shaft on Sunday and examined by emergency workers. No injuries were reported.

At least 200 more illegal miners were believed to be trapped underground.

Rescue workers abandoned their rescue mission on Sunday evening after the remaining men refused to be brought to the surface.

"After the 11 illegal miners have been brought up, the rest heard that they would be arrested and said they did not want to come back up," ER24 spokesman Werner Vermaak said.

It was too dangerous for the rescue workers to go down into the mine.

Food and water was sent down to the miners and officials said there was enough oxygen for them.

"However, it remains unsafe and the shaft can fall at any minute," said Vermaak.

Emergency workers said they would not be returning to the mine until the miners indicated they were ready to come up.

Police and private security companies, however remained at the shaft.

The illegal miners were found on Sunday while emergency services were conducting operations around the illegal mining in the area. They heard screaming from the abandoned mine.

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