Share

More Than 200 Trapped In Abandoned South African Gold Mine

February 16, 2014

An unknown number of illegal miners who are reportedly trapped in an abandoned gold shaft east of Johannesburg are refusing to be rescued, afraid that they will be arrested if the come out, according to officials. The miners were working illegally at the abandoned South African mine when it collapsed on Saturday morning. 

At least 11 miners were escorted to safety Sunday after rescue workers cleared the shaft entrance, but an undetermined number of their comrades were still in the gold mine, emergency responder Kobus Du Plooy said by telephone late Sunday. The miners who came out were dehydrated but in good spirits, Du Plooy said. Earlier, rescue vehicles and equipment were brought to the site to stabilize the ground before the rescue operation began.

After nightfall, some mine security officials remained at the site, but rescue workers had packed up and left, leaving behind a ladder in the shaft for those still below.

"Should they have a change of heart and mind, they then have at least some access to get out of the shaft," Du Plooy said.

He said he didn't know how many people were still in the shaft. Earlier, reports said more than 200 miners had been trapped. But the ones who emerged were tightlipped about the colleagues they left behind, apparently concerned about trouble with the police.

"They don't want to give away too much information," Du Plooy said. It was unclear how long the holdouts, who seemed to have few options, planned to prolong their stay in the mine.

(MORE: Heavy Snow in Japan Kills 12)

The miners were believed to have been trapped since Saturday morning and police patrolling in the area heard their screams for help, the South African Press Association reported.

Rescue teams arriving at the scene were able to speak to about 30 miners near the top of the old shaft, whose entrance was covered by a large rock, the news agency said. Those miners said as many as 200 others were trapped further down a steep tunnel at the mine in Benoni, on the outskirts of South Africa's biggest city.

Illegal mining is common in South Africa, a major producer of gold and platinum. Workers brave unsafe conditions below ground amid reports of the involvement of organized crime and even clashes between rival groups seeking to extract precious metal from the shafts.

Illegal mining remains a serious concern, despite progress in curbing it, South Africa's mineral resources department said in a statement. It attributed the improvement to "illegal mining forums," in which stakeholders in the mining industry seal open shafts and seek to detain illegal miners.

Some analysts say the problem could increase if legal mines close or downsize, forcing skilled workers who have lost their jobs to turn to illegal activities. South Africa's mining industry, a pillar of the economy, is struggling with rising costs. Tens of thousands of workers in the platinum sector are currently on strike.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

MORE: America's Abandoned Mines

Old metallic parts to machinery litter the lawn of an abandoned cabin in Bannack, Mont. (Flickr/Nomadic Lass)


Featured Blogs

Upgraded HWRF and GFDL Hurricane Models Excelled During Hurricane Arthur

By Dr. Jeff Masters
July 11, 2014

There have been major upgrades this year to the two operational National Weather Service (NWS) regional hurricane prediction systems, the GFDL and HWRF models. Both models did well for track and intensity forecasts for Hurricane Arthur, and the average intensity errors wer comparable to the other two top NWS intensity prediction models (LGEM and DSHIPS.)

Warmest Days of the Year for the U.S.

By Christopher C. Burt
July 9, 2014

NOAA recently produced an interesting map showing when the hottest day of the year is likely to occur in the contiguous U.S. Complimenting this map is one produced by Brian Brettschneider of Borealis Scientific, LLC, which illustrates the date of summer’s midpoint (peak of summer average temperatures) which was reproduced in my blog posted last August. Brian has also produced maps of such for the Fall, Winter and Spring seasons. There is also some other great material from Brian herein.

Live Blog: Tracking Hurricane Arthur as it Approaches North Carolina Coast

By Shaun Tanner
July 3, 2014

This is a live blog set up to provide the latest coverage on Hurricane Arthur as it threatens the North Carolina Coast. Check back often to see what the latest is with Arthur. The most recent updates are at the top.

Tropical Terminology

By Stu Ostro
June 30, 2014

Here is some basic, fundamental terminology related to tropical cyclones. Rather than a comprehensive and/or technical glossary, this represents the essence of the meaning & importance of some key, frequently used terms.

2013-14 - An Interesting Winter From A to Z

By Tom Niziol
May 15, 2014

It was a very interesting winter across a good part of the nation from the Rockies through the Plains to the Northeast. Let's break down the most significant winter storms on a month by month basis.

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.