South Africa. Mining Minister Susan Shabangu is expected to visit the Harmony Gold mine, where 36 suspected illegal miners died at the weekend.
The minister, accompanied by Free State Premier Ace Magashule, will visit the site to assess the measures put in place to deal with the issue of illicit mining.
The miners reportedly died following an underground fire in an abandoned area of the company’s Eland shaft in the Free State. Their bodies were brought to the surface by other suspected criminal miners.
“The South African Government will not condone illicit mining, these are human lives that have been lost; children have been orphaned and women have been widowed. I would therefore like to extend sympathies to the families of the bereaved,” she said.
The minister further said she was saddened by the incident.
Harmony Gold Mining Company Limited (Harmony) said that, in the past two weeks, 294 illegal miners had been brought to the surface at the shaft.
“They were charged and will be criminally prosecuted,” said the company is a statement.
Harmony Chief Executive Officer, Graham Briggs said: “We continue to address the issue of criminal mining on a daily basis, together with the South African Police Services, the Department of Justice, the National Prosecuting Authority and other affected mining companies.”
Initiatives instituted by the company, Mr Briggs said, include tightened security at shaft heads, daily search operations underground and improved access control measures.
It is not known if other criminal miners have died, but the company said it would not deploy its own employees on underground searches as the abandoned mining areas were extremely dangerous.