A rockfall trapped 20 or more illegal gold miners at Gravelotte mine at Springs in eastern Gauteng. Rescue operations started when the SA Chamber of Mines had paid full costs four days after the incident.
One of the miners managed to find his way out of the condemned mine and alerted police. No rescue attempts were made until Friday, after payment for the operation.
Trade union Solidarity deputy general secretary Gideon du Plessis said nobody was willing to take responsibility for the “human tragedy” at the mine.
“The liquidators did not want to pay for the recovery, as they said the miners had gained entrance through Grootvlei mine, so the Chamber of Mines stepped in,” said Du Plessis.
The Minerals and Energy Department said it was not their problem because the trapped miners were operating illegally. Departmental spokesperson Zingaphi Jakuja said: “The department does not engage in illegal mining. The owners of the assets should be responsible.”
By Friday all the trapped miners were feared dead and the rescuers said it was too dangerous to recover their bodies. Christo de Klerk, managing director of Mines Rescue Service, said: “We will not endanger more lives of people by trying to rescue them, so the possibility of us going back is very slim, as we cannot even retrieve the bodies of trapped miners.”
By late yesterday it could not be established how many miners may have lost their lives in the rockfall.
Last night the Chamber of Mines confirmed that it had paid for the rescue in full, but it insisted it was not responsible.
Chamber of Mines spokeperson Jabu Maphalala said because of the humanitarian concern, they stepped in to pay for the cost of Friday’s operation.
“The mine is not a member of the Chamber of Mines, but given the humanitarian element, we felt that we should get involved as nothing was being done,” said Maphalala.
It is unlikely any moves will be made to retrieve the miners’ bodies.
Source: The New Age