News / Africa

South African Authorities Rescue, Arrest Trapped Illegal Miners

An illegal miner is rescued from a sealed-off gold mine shaft near Johannesburg Feb. 16, 2014.
An illegal miner is rescued from a sealed-off gold mine shaft near Johannesburg Feb. 16, 2014.
Anita Powell
An unknown number of illegal miners are refusing to be rescued from a sealed-off abandoned mine near Johannesburg because they fear arrest, South African authorities said Monday. Rescue workers believe the group was trapped by a rival gang of illegal miners.  Nineteen miners had been rescued by Monday morning, rescue workers say, and police say they don’t know how many people are still underground.

South African rescue officials say they are trying to coax out illegal miners from the sealed-off mine after they were discovered to be trapped over the weekend.
 
Werner Vermaak of private emergency medical group ER24 said rescuers have sent in food and water to the miners still trapped.
 
He said he didn't know exactly how many workers were still underground.
 
“Paramedics at the moment have sent down a miner to try to negotiate with the other miners to see if he will be able to convince them to come up and be assessed by the paramedics,” said Vermaak.
 
Vermaak says the miners are thought to have been trapped since Friday, after they illegally dug an entry tunnel near the abandoned shaft.  They were discovered Sunday after police patrolling the area heard calls for help.

  • South African authorities said 22 gold miners who came out of a disused and temporarily blocked shaft, near Johannesburg over the last two days have been arrested and will be charged with illegal mining, Feb. 17, 2014.
  • Suspected illegal miners await treatment after emerging from an abandoned gold shaft in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, Feb. 17, 2014. 
  • A suspected illegal miner talks to emergency personnel after emerging from an abandoned gold shaft in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, Feb. 17, 2014. 
  • A suspected illegal miner climbs out of a ventilation shaft used to access an abandoned gold shaft in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, Feb. 17, 2014. 
  • South African rescuers started bringing to the surface at least 30 illegal miners who had been trapped by debris in the abandoned gold shaft near Johannesburg, South Africa, Feb. 16, 2014.

  • A suspected illegal miner is led away after being rescued from an abandoned gold shaft in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, Feb. 16, 2014.
  • Rescue officials use a crane to remove debris as they work to rescue trapped suspected illegal miners from an abandoned gold shaft in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, Feb. 16, 2014.
  • A trapped illegal miner at a disused gold mine shaft is bought to the surface, near, Benoni, South Africa, Feb. 16, 2014.
  • A suspected illegal miner talks to officials after being rescued from an abandoned gold shaft in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, South Africa, Feb. 16, 2014.

South African police spokeswoman Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale said once the illegal miners are rescued, they will be arrested.  She said at least 11 rescued miners will be charged in a Johannesburg-area court on Tuesday - and offered a warning to other illegal miners.

“Those who are involved in illegal mining will be arrested.  Case in point: yesterday’s illegal miners that were trapped underneath the mine,” said Mogale.
 
Illegal mining is common in South Africa, a major producer of gold and platinum.  The nation is also plagued with a high unemployment rate, and some analysts say the problem is exacerbated by mining layoffs that force skilled workers to turn to illegal activities.
 
Vermaak said gang warfare is common in the illegal mining business.
 
“These guys were trapped when boulders were thrown back into the ventilation shaft, leaving these guys trapped.  It is not uncommon for it to happen.  It has happened before - late last year, towards the end of December, we did have a similar incident in Johannesburg where eight people were killed after they were shot by a rival group and their bodies were thrown back into a ventilation shaft,” said Vermaak.
 
Mogale said mine security is keeping an eye on the situation. She said the holdouts say they have good reason to stay underground. “The suggestion is that they are afraid they will get arrested,” said she. Mogale responded with an unequivocal “yes” to a question as to whether the miners remaining underground will be subject to arrest.
 
Vermaak added that a substantial number of illegal miners are also illegal immigrants to South Africa. With arrest often comes deportation.
 
So there they stay, trapped between a rock and a hard place.

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs