Rescue of S Africa miners under way
Seventy-five brought up in good condition but more than 3,000 gold miners still trapped.
He said there was no food or water in the mine.
“Most of the people are scared and we also have some women miners there underground,” he said.
|“Most of the people are scared and we also have some women miners there underground”
Sethiri Thibile, rescued miner
Although those rescued so far were all in good health, Lesiba Seshoka, a spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers, told Al Jazeera he was worried for those still trapped.
“We are very worried because … they might be suffocating,” he said, adding that the miners were trapped in a cramped space where temperatures could reach 30 to 40 degrees Celsius.
Harmony Gold, the world’s fifth biggest gold producer, said workers at the Elandsrand mine in Carletonville city near Johannesburg became trapped after a collapsing column of water pipes fell in the shaft of the elevator that brings miners to the surface, causing extensive damage to the steel framework and to the electrical feeder cables.
The miners were caught about 2km underground, and the rescue operation was expected to last about 10 hours but Graham Briggs, Harmony’s acting chief executive, was confident that all the miners would be rescued.
“Nobody is injured, nobody is hurt, nothing like that at all,” he said.
He also rejected union criticism about safety conditions at the mine, and said the shaft was in very good condition with a lot of new infrastructure.
Peter Bailey, in charge of health and safety for the union, confirmed that the rescued miners were so far “all doing well”.
Deon Boqwana, the regional chairman for the union, said union leaders were in contact with the trapped miners over telephone landlines in the mine.
“They are still in good condition but are angry, hungry, frustrated and want to get out of there,” he said.
He said the miners were trapped nearly 2km below ground.
Last year, 199 mineworkers died in accidents, mostly rock falls, the government Mine Health and Safety Council reported in September.