As 12 illegal miners are brought up in Johannesburg, many more may be too scared to follow

The world is again watching miners in peril – but these, in South Africa, have some extra worries

Benoni

A dozen illegal miners trapped in an abandoned gold mine near Johannesburg were brought to the surface on Sunday night, but an unknown number remained underground as they fear arrest, an emergency services spokesman said.

Rescue teams said they had been communicating with the miners, who were believed to have been trapped underground since Saturday morning. The miners reportedly told emergency services that 30 people were trapped by a fallen boulder at the top of the mine, but there could be as many as 200 people deeper down in the cavern.

A police patrol in the semi-rural Johannesburg suburb of Benoni, where gold has been mined for decades, had been alerted to the situation by shouts from the trapped miners on Sunday morning.

A crane was used to shift a large concrete slab that was obstructing the shaft belonging to the Chinese-owned bullion producer Gold One, which has prospecting rights to the mine but is not currently working it.

Rescue operations ceased as darkness fell last night. ER24 spokesman Werner Vermaak said 12 people had been rescued. They were checked by medics and then handed over to the police.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries. Private mine security guards were stationed around the mine shaft and police were on hand to arrest any other miners who came out.

Gold One spokesman Grant Stuart said the miners had been trapped in the “New Kleinfontein 6” ventilation shaft.

“The illegal miners have dug a tunnel right next to it to access the shaft and it has collapsed behind them,” he said, adding that heavy rain may have triggered the collapse.

South Africa is the world’s fourth-biggest gold exporter and mining contributes 10 per cent of the country’s GDP, but the industry’s safety record has come under scrutiny.

A 2008 study of the gold sector found that an estimated $509 million (£309 million) in revenue was lost a year as a result of illegal mining, according to South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources.

Illegal mining of abandoned shafts is common in South Africa, where informal miners excavate ore to sell, often living underground in dangerous and precarious conditions.

Fatal accidents are common and underground battles between rival groups have also been reported.

Reports on Sunday said the miners could have been sabotaged by a competing gang who took the gold they had mined before moving a boulder across the mine entrance, preventing them from escaping.

“It’s quite common for rival gangs to close off mines,” said Mr Vermaak.

Rescue workers Sunday night said they were sceptical about the numbers of people who could be trapped in the mine. A statement from ER24 said: “It still remains unclear if there is any truth in what the miners have told rescuers that several others are trapped in a separate section of the mine.

“Once the first group have been brought to the surface, rescue workers will make their way down to inspect and search for other miners.”

Illegal miners – also known as Zama Zama workers – are often poor men enlisted by large criminal organisations feeding networks of international smugglers. Reuters

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus all the build-up to Man City vs Chelsea and Everton vs Palace
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Polly Borgen at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012
peopleThe Emmy award-winner starred in Cape Fear, the Sopranos and Desperate House Wives
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teaching Assistant required in ...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam