JOHANNESBURG, Feb 17 — The first five of many illegal miners who have been trapped in an abandoned mine shaft in Benoni, about 30 km east of here, have been brought to the surface.
The group has been trapped for more than a day after they were allegedly robbed of gold and blockaded inside the shaft by rival miners. Disaster management and emergency officers are still on the scene as the rescue operation continues.
Rescue efforts are under to remove some 200 illegal miners who are trapped in the old mine shaft which was apparently abandoned a long time ago and is now being exploited by illegal miners.
Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality’s Emergency Services (EMS) have brought in a crane to remove two concrete boulders in order to create an opening for the miners.
The rescue effort will likely take several hours as rescuers will need to secure one of the boulders to ensure that it will not move and crush the miners when the first boulder is lifted.
EMS officials say they have been talking with a group of about 30 trapped illegal miners who have told them that no one is injured. Water was lowered to the miners who are believed to be about five metres underground.
Illegal mining across Gauteng province’s mining belt has been a major headache for the authorities in recent months and the matter is aggravated by the emergence of violence as groups become ruthless and cunning in the pursuit for gold.
This is not the first incident of this nature in Gauteng. In July last year seven illegal miners died after being trapped and 12 others were wounded at a mine shaft at Brakpan, near Benoni. Early last month, 40 illegal miners were rescued and charged after being trapped at a Roodepoort mine shaft, west of Johannesburg.