Rescuers are working to free some three-thousand miners trapped at least two thousand meters underground at a gold mine near the South African city of Carltonville. A spokesperson for the Harmony Gold company which operates the mine, said workers became trapped Wednesday after a pipe broke and fell down the mine shaft, causing extensive damage to the electrical wiring and steelwork that is part of the mine lift.
Thomas Hartleb is a reporter with the South Africa News Agency. He told VOA that rescuers are making progress in bringing the trapped miners to the surface.
“The latest is that almost 600 miners of the 3,200 trapped under ground have been rescued. They have done it using a much smaller lift that can only carry a few people at a time. A spokeswoman at the mine says that they are going to be working around the clock to get all the 3,200 miners out. Apparently some of them are quite angry because they feel the mine management is not communicating with them about the rescue operation or how long it would take. That’s what the miners who coming to the surface are telling us,” he said.
But a spokesperson for the Harmony Gold Mine, which operates the mine where the accident occurred, said its management was in constant contact with the workers, and the families were being kept informed of developments by a special control room at the mine.
Hartleb said some of the rescued miners have also complained about being hungry.
"There are about 200 of them who have been down in the mine since Tuesday night. So yes, they are very, very hungry and tired and frustrated and exhausted,” Hartleb said.
He said the Harmony Gold Mine company, which operates the mine where the accident occurred, had been doing some upgrading recently.
“What the company did, they purchased an old mine and they are now extending the shaft downward. And so there are maintenance problems,” Hartleb said.
He said mine workers in South Africa die frequently but mostly from rock fall.
“They happen quite regularly because mines in South Africa are quite deep. So there’s always a high risk of rock fall. And just this week we had four miners killed at a gold mine also near Johannesburg. So they are not that infrequent,” Hartleb said.
He said the authorities are optimistic they can rescue all the trapped miners.