South Africa Trapped Illegal Gold Miners Rescued Afraid of Arrest

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South African miners have a very dangerous job, which is made even more dangerous when conducting the mining illegally. Just 10 days ago, on Feb. 6, 2014, eight bodies were recovered after a fire and rock fall in a legal mine. Today in South Africa, an alleged 200 illegal gold miners were trapped by boulders, they are now being rescued, but some will not come out because they are afraid of arrest.

Emergency services were in contact with approximately 30 miners near the top of the mine who said that there were 200 miners below them in a steep tunnel. Officials did not confirm the 200, but have only confirmed the 30 miners in contact. Rescuers now believe that the 200 number is unlikely, but have not confirmed a definitive number.

Yesterday the mine was illegally entered east of Johannesburg by the men. Municipal rescuers said the miners were unable to surface after a boulder fell, blocking their way. Authorities have rescued 11 trapped miners, though others remain in the mine and refuse to come up because they do not want to be arrested by South Africa authorities.

There is speculation that a rival illegal mining group might have trapped the other illegal miners in the abandoned mine shaft intentionally. This has not been confirmed. Werner Vermaak, spokesman for ER24, said by the looks of the boulders implied foul play and that this sometimes happens between rival groups.

Vermaak said that it took quite a few hours to get the necessary equipment and identify the best method to begin the rescue of the miners. Eleven of the illegal gold miners have now been rescued, but the rest continue to remain in place for fear of the consequences of coming out.

Vermaak said that they are not sure of the number of injured, but there have been no initial reports on injuries or death. The miners who have surfaced may have been slightly dehydrated, but otherwise seem fine. Vermaak said that once each miner is medically evaluated that they will be passed on to police for questioning. This has some of the illegal miners who had been trapped underground for more than a day, refusing to budge.

According to Vermaak, trapped illegal miners are a common occurrence, as illegal miners break security at abandoned mines to look for leftover gold. He said it happens almost on a weekly basis.

Mining is a vital part of the nation’s economy. They are the fourth largest gold exporter in the world. Illegal miners take away hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, according to the South Africa Department of Mineral Resources. Although vital, the craft is also dangerous. Miners die regularly in both legal and illegal mines, although most deaths are recognized to be in conjunction with illegal mines. There are risks of fire and falling rock. A mine fire in 2009 killed 82 people. There have been multiple deaths already this month in legal mines. Despite the prevalence of mining, there are many safety concerns. This time, those trapped are considered by many to be lucky, as there are no reported injuries or deaths as of yet. The trapped illegal gold miners in South Africa are being rescued, but the situation continues to drag out as many still refuse to surface because they are afraid of arrest.

By Rebecca Hofland

Sources:
The Economic Times
The Telegraph
BBC
BBC
Reuters
USA Today

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