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article imageAt Least 60 Illegal South African Miners Die in Abandoned Shaft

By Christopher Szabo     Jun 2, 2009 in World
More than 60 illegal miners have died in a fire in an unused gold mine in South Africa’s central Free State province. The miners are thought to have died of gas or smoke inhalation.
A report in the Mail and Guardian Online said the dead were brought to the surface by fellow illegal miners.
Tom Smith, head of Harmony Gold Mining Company’s Free State operations said they had found 25 more bodies, following the initial 36 brought to the surface at the weekend and Monday. The Johannesburg Star newspaper reported that another 294 illegal miners had been arrested in the province last month in addition to 114 in March, which included Harmony employees.
Harmony is the world’s fifth largest gold producer and Africa’s third. The company was built by buying up old, unused mine shafts and refurbishing them.
Illegal mining is an old problem in South Africa. The illegal miners enter mines and sometimes even dig their own galleries off main ones. They often get help from legitimate miners and security personnel. Illegal miners enter one mine, cross into another and exit another mine, thus avoiding security.
Minister of Mining Susan Shabangu expressed her concern in connection with the deaths:
The government will not condone illicit mining, but these are human lives that have been lost. Children have been orphaned and women have been widowed.
At the same time, the government would not pay compensation to the dead miners’ families. It had provided government mortuary facilities but would not do more, a report said.
According to The Star's report, Harmony said it was too dangerous to send rescue teams to search for survivors.
More about South Africa, Mine, Illegal, Fire
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