ILLEGAL MINERS STILL TRAPPED UNDERGROUND IN S.AFRICAN; GOVT URGES ERADICATION OF ILLEGAL MINING

The South African government on Monday called on all stakeholders to work together to eradicate illegal mining in the country.

"One of our biggest tasks is to get to the syndicates behind these operations, as well as the markets they're supplying," Minister of Mineral Resources Zwane said.

This came amid reports that a number of illegal miners were trapped underground in an abandoned gold mine in Johannesburg.

A rescue team managed to save four miners on Sunday, but suspended the search later due to high levels of carbon dioxide underground.

Six miners reportedly remained trapped underground. It is still unclear when the miners got into the mine. The illegal miners are believed to come from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Zwane said rescue teams will later on Monday assess the levels of carbon dioxide underground, to determine whether rescue operations can resume.

Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) on Monday also called for the speedy rescue of trapped miners. However, it said the number of trapped could be more than 50. The DA's figures cannot be officially confirmed.

"We call on law enforcement to exact the full might of the law on these syndicates who lethally exploit desperate people looking to put food on the table," the DA said in a statement.

"The scale of the disaster at the Langlaagte gold mine is unknown. One report said 51 miners were down the abandoned mine. So far seven are believed dead with others trapped underground," said James Lorimer, DA Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources.

"These tragedies will continue until there is credible action by the state to stop illegal mining," said Lorimer.

He said unstopped illegal mining indicates state failure on multiple levels such as unpoliced borders which allow the easy ingress of illegal miners, lack of legislation making illegal mining itself a crime and little action to close down and arrest people working at gold washing tables scattered across the area.

Zwane, on the other hand, said the mineral resources ministry is working together with law enforcement agencies to ensure that perpetrators are brought to book, he said.

Thus far, over 800 arrests have been made and weekly disruptive operations are undertaken, according to the minister.

Over 200 holes have been closed by the department and mining companies, thus cutting off illegal access to disused mining operations, Zwane said.

According to the South African Chamber of Mines, over six billion rand (about US$420 million US) is lost through illegal mining annually.

About 70 percent of illegal miners are illegal immigrants, according to the chamber, adding about 14,000 people are involved in illegal mining in South Africa.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK