Saturday, Oct 22, 2016
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Illegal miners trapped in S. Africa, 11 rescued

More than 200 believed to be underground


Workers attempt to free trapped illegal miners at a gold mine near Benoni, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Many fear leaving the mine because they face arrest. Illegal mining is an issue in the country, a major producer of gold and platinum.


JOHANNESBURG — Emergency crews in South Africa rescued 11 miners who were trapped while working illegally in an abandoned mine shaft near Johannesburg on Sunday, but other miners remained inside because they were afraid of being arrested, emergency workers said.

More than 200 miners were believed to be in the mine, based on reports from those who had been trapped underground.

It was unclear how many people remained in the mine Sunday night, when rescue operations were called off.

Emergency crews said they left a ladder for any other miners to use if they decide to exit.

The miners initially reported that about 30 people were trapped in the top section of the mine and 200 others in a lower section, but officials could not confirm those figures.

The scene was handed over to police and to mine security officials at Gold One, a mining company.

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

He said he didn’t know how many people were still in the shaft.

“They don’t want to give away too much information,” Mr. Du Plooy said. It was unclear how long the holdouts planned to prolong their stay in the mine.

Some of the 11 who came out were dehydrated but otherwise in good health. They were believed to have been trapped since Saturday morning.

Police in the area heard their screams for help, the South African Press Association said. Rescue vehicles and equipment stabilized the ground before the removal of the rubble began.

The miners were trapped beneath several layers of boulders, the Department of Mineral Resources said.

They will receive medical help and then be arrested, the department said.

“The issue of illegal mining remains a serious concern to the department [and] we continue to work with law enforcement agencies in this regard,” the department said.

Illegal mining is common in South Africa, a major producer of gold and platinum.

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