Five mineworkers have died and a sixth is still trapped underground after a fire broke out at a copper mine in Limpopo, according to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).
The union said the fire broke out in the early hours of Sunday morning at a Phalaborwa Mining Company mine in eastern Limpopo.
"The fire reportedly started at conveyor belt 5, and when smoke was seen by a logistic belt operator, the workers were instructed to evacuate the area to the closest refuge chamber," AMCU said in a statement.
"The proto team at the mine itself was reportedly not ready to complete the rescue, and therefore another proto team from Burgersfort had to be called in."
The union said this team only arrived around 11:00 on Sunday.
"They managed to recover one living and two deceased mineworkers from the mine, but the high temperatures which rose to [between] 64 to 67 degrees Celsius, made the rescue efforts almost impossible."
AMCU said at around 19:00 on Sunday, three other miners were confirmed to have died in the refuge chamber.
"Breathing is difficult due to ventilation pipes being damaged by the flames, and communication lines have also been compromised," the statement said.
"AMCU sends heartfelt condolences to the loved ones and colleagues of the five fallen mineworkers."