A gold mine in Mpumalanga province in eastern South Africa has collapsed, a spokesman for the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) Manzini Zungu said on Friday, disclosing that more than 100 people were trapped underground.
This is coming just days after a miner was rescued and the body of another discovered at Sibanye Gold’s Cooke operations in Westonaria. Rescuers had struggled for 48 hours before they were able to reach the trapped miners.
Sibanye Gold spokesman James Wellsted said the miners were likely to have broken through barricades to do some illegal mining.
At the Mpumalanga mine collapse, Police said 115 miners were trapped underground on Thursday and nearly 80 were brought to the surface on Friday. A statement by Australia-based miner Vantage Goldfields said the mine collapsed at the main entrance.
Chief executive of Vantage Goldfields, Mike McChesney, told Reuters that 115 workers had initially been trapped at the company’s Lily mine, but most of them had been rescued. “As we speak they might already all be out,” he said. There were no fatalities reported.
South Africa’s mines are among the most dangerous in the world due to their depth and poor safety practices. The top seven deepest mines in the world are located in South Africa. But fatalities have been reducing due to improved safety practices and a reduction in the labour force occasioned by fall in production. Last year, mining accidents led to 77 deaths, the lowest number on record. This is expected to fall further in 2016 as safety practices continue to improve and job cuts persist. In January, mining companies in South Africa informed the government that they plan to cut about 32,000 jobs this year.
UPDATE 14:50 GMT. 87 people have been rescued, but three are still missing.