Death toll in illegal mining accident rises to 31

Death toll in illegal mining accident rises to 31

The death toll in an illegal mining accident in South Africa has risen to 31. Two more bodies were recovered at Harmony’s Eland Mine in Free State Province. A further 16 people who survived last week’s deadly gas explosion have been arrested, with 27 people total now in custody.

It’s been a long and agonizing wait for the families of illegal miners who died in a gas explosion at the St Helena Shaft in Welkom. In the last week, 31 bodies have been brought to the surface through Harmony’s Eland Mine.

“The actual incident didn’t take place at Elands mine where we are now. It took place about 13km away, which is St Helena 9A ventilation. And those corpses are being wrapped and brought to Elands by other illegal miners underground,” said General Lerato Molale from the South Africa Police Service.

A further 27 miners who survived are now in police custody.

“They’re charged for trespassing, attempted theft of mine property and themselves as illegal miners and as investigations continue, more charges will be placed against them,” Molale said.

It’s the second such incident in just eight years. Around 80 illegal miners were killed in a similar incident at the Eland Shaft in 2009. Police say measures are in place to curb unlawful activity.

“Harmony has got its own security that guards its mines and own shafts, but from time to time as the police, we are in a multi-disclosure approach. We are holding operations with mine security and other relevant role players,” added Molale.

Police say there’s no way of knowing how many people have been killed or are still trapped underground but the search will continue for at least the next week.

Illegal miners often go in search of gold in mines that are no longer suitable or profitable for mining companies in South Africa.

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Story By Reuters
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