Rescue officials use hoists to remove debris as they work
to rescue the trapped miners. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
A dozen South African illegal miners have been brought to
the surface after being trapped in an abandoned gold mine near
Johannesburg, but an unknown number remain underground because
they feared arrest, an emergency services spokesman said.
"Twelve have been rescued so far," ER24 spokesman Werner
Vermaak told Reuters.
Those brought to the surface were checked by medics and then
handed over to the police. There were no immediate reports of
deaths or injuries.
Rescue operations ceased as darkness fell but private mine
security guards were stationed around the shaft and police
were also on hand to arrest any other miners who came out.
A police patrol in the semi-rural Johannesburg suburb of
Benoni, where gold has been mined for decades, had been
alerted by shouts from the trapped miners.
Vermaak initially said some of the trapped group had told
rescuers that 200 more illegal diggers were deeper in the
mine, and the exact number who remained was not known.
A crane was used to shift a large concrete slab that was
obstructing the shaft belonging to the Chinese-owned bullion
producer Gold One, which has prospecting rights to the mine
but is not currently working it.
Illegal mining of abandoned shafts is common in South Africa,
where informal miners excavate ore to sell, often living
underground in dangerous and precarious conditions. Fatal
accidents are common, and underground battles between rival
groups have also been reported.
Gold One spokesman Grant Stuart said the miners had been
trapped in the "New Kleinfontein 6" ventilation shaft.
"The illegal miners have dug a tunnel right next to it to
access the shaft and it has collapsed behind them," he said,
adding that heavy rain may have triggered the collapse.
Gold One delisted last month from the Johannesburg and
Australian bourses after all of its share capital was
acquired by BCX Gold Investment Holdings, a Chinese