200 trapped in abandoned mine

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AROUND a dozen illegal gold miners have been rescued after being trapped down an abandoned mine in South Africa.
As many as 200 remained underground yesterday but they were refusing to leave fearing they face arrest.
Food and water have been sent down but a rescue operation will only restart if the men request it.
ER24 emergency services called up heavy equipment on Sunday to rescue a group of some 200 miners trapped in an abandoned gold mine shaft near Benoni, Johannesburg.
ER24 spokesman Werner Vermaak said on Sunday afternoon that a rescue team
were in touch with a smaller group of about 30 miners who became trapped by fallen rocks below the surface.
He said: ‘They told us there are about 200 others trapped further below.’
Referring to eleven miners who had been rescued earlier he added: ‘They say there are approximately 30 people trapped towards the top of the old shaft and the rest are down a steep tunnel. In some areas you can still hear them and speak to them.
‘It’s an abandoned mine shaft in the middle of the public veld – it was not a blocked-off area.
‘Rescue services managed to lift up one of the boulders. We managed to send down water to them and we think some of them are suffering from dehydration.’
The men had been trapped in the shaft for two days and were discovered by local police patrolling the area after cries for help were heard by passers by.
Rescuers were able to reach the men by lowering a ladder into the shaft after removing the boulders
from the entrance.
Vermaak said that the miners may have been trapped deliberately by a rival group as they worked to try and find pieces of precious metal left behind after industrial operations in the shaft ended several years ago.
He added that it is likely that those rescued will be taken into custody by the police when they emerge.
He said: ‘They will have to be assessed medically. From there on they will be handed over to police. And the police have a large truck here.’
Mining is a vital part of the South African economy and the country is the fourth-biggest gold exporter.
According to South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources, a 2008 study of the gold sector found that an estimated $509m (£309m) in revenue was lost a year as a result of illegal mining.
South Africa has some of the world’s deepest gold mines and safety is a major issue.
In recent years the majority of deaths underground have occurred in illegal
mines.
But earlier this month, nine South African miners died in three different incidents at various legal gold mines operated by the Harmony gold company.
At least 82 men died in a fire at a Harmony gold mine in 2009.
l Anglo American Platinum is suing the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) over the strike at the world’s largest producers of the metal.
More than 70,000 AMCU members have been on strike since January 23 at Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin.
They are demanding that monthly wages for the lowest-paid underground workers be more than doubled to a monthly living wage of 12,500 rand.
Amplats  spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said on Friday that the Johannesburg-based company is suing AMCU for 591 million rand.
The company is claiming for damage to property, increased security costs and production losses caused by non-striking employees being prevented from going to work, she
said.
Combined lost revenue at the three companies has reached about $315 million, with strikers giving up $140 million in pay, a spokesman for the producers said in a statement.
Amplats is producing 5,000 ounces a day and has lost more than 60,000 ounces valued at 1.5 billion rand, chief executive Chris Griffith said at a presentation during parent Anglo American’s results in London on Friday.
Impala Platinum spokesman Johan Theron said the company is preparing for the strike to last until May as talks to resolve the deadlock make little progress.
Lonmin had already won a court order requiring the AMCU to comply with picketing rules at its Marikana mine.
A company statement last Thursday said: ‘Lonmin is aware of a handful of allegations of violence towards, and intimidation of, employees in recent days.
‘The strike at Marikana has thus far been peaceful and the company regards these developments with great concern.’
Talks
between the AMCU and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration scheduled for last Friday were delayed to yesterday, February 17, the mediator said in a statement.
AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Friday that negotiators were preparing for the funeral of an AMCU official killed during a protest at Amplats’ Union mine on February 7th.
The death of the AMCU organiser during protests at Amplats followed other strike violence.
Police fired rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse a crowd of 3,000 at Amplats’ Khuseleka mine on February 4th.
Last week, South African President Jacob Zuma called for an end to violent mining strikes and street protests.
In his state-of-the-nation speech to Parliament in Cape Town last Thursday,  Zuma said: ‘In no way can we have conflict that destroys the economy.
‘When protests threaten lives and property and destroy valuable infrastructure intended to serve the
community, they undermine the very democracy that upholds the right to protest.’
Trade union federation COSATU spokesperson, Patrick Craven, responded last Friday: ‘The long-term solution to strikes and protests lies not just in regulations and police action but through the transformation of our economy and the creation of thousands of decent, sustainable jobs, decent wages and a far more equitable distribution of the country’s wealth.’
Referring to Zuma’s State of the Nation address (Sona) on Thursday night, Craven added: ‘We note, however, his off-the-cuff announcement of “regulations to prevent arbitrary strikes and retrenchments” and urge him to clarify what he means and to reassure us that any such regulations will be fully discussed by role-players.’
Few of the proposals Zuma mentioned during his address to Parliament were new, which was concerning, Craven said.
The COSATU spokesman  described the speech as a
‘repetition of many pledges already made in previous Sonas’ and that ‘there was not enough focus on the way forward’.