17 February 2014

South Africa: Illegal Miner Surfaces Briefly

Johannesburg — One of the illegal miners inside the abandoned mine in Benoni, on the East Rand, surfaced on Monday but went back underground to talk to his colleagues, Ekurhuleni emergency services said.

"One of the illegal miners surfaced this morning but went down to try and convince others to come up when he heard the opening would be closed," rescue technician David Tshabalala said.

"The illegal miners did not want to come up. The total of miners that resurfaced today is 11, bringing the overall number to 22. It is unclear how many are still underground."

Tshabalala said the mineral resources department would close the opened shaft in a bid to stop illegal mining, and gave the miners notice about this on Monday.

"We will give those underground ample time to get out, but will have to close it," he said.

By 6.15pm, emergency services suspended their operations. Tshabalala said police and mine security would remain overnight. He said the 11 who resurfaced were not injured. They were handed to police after medical checks.

Tshabalala said it was unclear how many illegal miners were still underground because those who resurfaced could not provide them with numbers. Earlier he said some of the illegal miners came halfway up the shaft, but then turned around.

Rescuers could not go down the shaft because it was too dangerous.

"There is an opening and we sent a chain down that we can pull them up with," Tshabalala said.

He said food and water were sent down to the miners on Sunday, but they could be running low.

The illegal miners were found on Sunday when Ekurhuleni metro police were patrolling the area and heard screaming from the abandoned mine.

Gauteng police said 11 illegal miners who were rescued on Sunday had been charged. They would appear in the Benoni Magistrate's Court on Tuesday on charges of illegal mining, Lt-Col Katlego Mogale.

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