On Monday, Feb. 17, South African police revealed that over the course of the last two days, 22 gold miners who were trapped in a disused and temporarily blocked gold mine near Johannesburg have been rescued. The miners were subsequently arrested and are looking at charges of illegal mining.
The 22 men became trapped in the mine located in a field in Benoni when a concrete slab fell blocking their exit. After a crane removed the concrete slab, 12 men came up out of the mine. The next day ten men emerged from the mine covered in yellow-brown dust.
Prior to being transported to the local police station, the men were checked out by medical personnel and given cold drinks. According to reporters in the area, police and private security guards were guarding the entrance to the ventilation shaft waiting on what they believe to be more men refusing to leave the mine.
Police revealed that a common practice in the illegal gold mines is that “informal” miners live underground in dangerous condition for weeks trying to dig out small parcels of gold-bearing ore. A large number of those miners are from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho.
It isn’t unusual for fatal accidents to take place under those conditions. Rival groups have also been participating in underground battles for the small amounts of gold-bearing ore being found.
The owner of the mine Bullion producer Gold One had originally blocked the entrance to the mine shaft with the large slab of concrete to prevent anyone from gaining access. However, the illegal miners burrowed around it with it eventually shifting and blocking their exit.
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