South Africa has made headlines today because of trapped miners. The twist to this story is that the miners were working illegally in an abandoned gold mine near Johannesburg this past Sunday. The miners knew they would be in trouble, so some of them decided to stay underground to avoid being arrested by the police.
To save the trapped miners, the emergency crews used a crane to get rid of large amounts of rubble to see the opening of the mine. The miners had been lifted out through the opening, and had appeared to be trapped since early Saturday.
Emergency crews had left a ladder for the trapped miners to use to climb out, and they could have climbed out at any time, but for the miners it meant choosing to stay in the mines or get arrested. In an ironic twist, climbing to freedom meant arrest, and thus a loss of their freedom.
Miners reported that 30 other miners were located in the top section of the mine, and the other 200 plus miners were located in the lower section of the mine, but the officials were having trouble confirming those numbers due to the fact that they would be arrested.
The organization handling the rescue, ER24, which is a private national emergency medical services organization in South Africa, declared that the rescue operation couldn’t last forever and after nine hours the rescue operation was called off. Since the miners were mining illegally it officially became a crime scene, and it was handed of to the police and to the Gold One mining company security officials. The Department of Mineral Resources stated “Those who were rescued received medical attention and were arrested”. Then they posted a statement on twitter:
“The issue of illegal mining remains a serious concern to the department & we continue to work with law enforcement agencies in this regard”.
Illegal mining has always been a problem for South Africa, and it has been on the rise in Gauteng Province, which includes Johannesburg, Benoni, and other nearby cities.
Susan Shabangu is the Minister for mineral resources, and according to her, last fall showed a recent increase in illegal mining, and this wasn’t safe for other miners, and the local communities.
South Africa has had many tragic mining incidents, but 2009 was the worst because 82 men who were also working in the mines illegally had died in an underground fire. South Africa suffered a tragic loss that day.