Miners trapped in an illegal gold mine in South Africa have been freed, but are now facing another problem – if they exit the mine shaft, they may be arrested. Eleven miners have made their way to safety, but CNN on Sunday is reporting that approximately 19 others are still holed up inside the abandoned gold mine in Benoni, just outside Johannesburg.
Initial reports of over 200 miners trapped underground have yet to be confirmed. However, at least 19 men still are refusing to exit the shaft after discovering they faced arrest at the surface.
Officials are standing by at the mine site. A private security company has been hired to guard the mine, and are standing by to take action to assist the men should they decide to leave.
Werner Vermaak from South Africa’s ER24 – the country’s a national emergency medical service – said the miners wound not be denied assistance if they radioed out for help.
“They will be offered rescue should they decide to come out,” Vermaak said. “But they will be arrested should they come to the surface again.”
Vermaak said that the men cannot exit without ladders or ropes; essentially stating that while they are no longer “trapped,” they cannot get out unless they are assisted by emergency crews. And once they do, they will face arrest.
Media reports are stating that the initial mine collapse was caused by rival miners pushing boulders into the shaft. Police are investigating those allegations.
The illegal workers in the mine do not face immediate danger, and have been sent rations of food of water.