Six workers safely rescued from South African abandoned gold mine

Illegal miner being rescued in South Africa. (Screenshot from VICE News documentary, via You Tube)

South African rescue teams succeed in freeing Monday six of the unknown number of illegal miners that have been trapped for five days at a shaft at the abandoned Langlaagte gold mine, south of Johannesburg.

According to several media reports, the men fled the scene as soon as they came out fearing they would be arrested for illegal mining, where penalties for such activity go from include fines to prison time.

Recovering bullion prices, paired with unemployment, illicit migration, and poverty, have all contributed to the growth of the illegal mining in South Africa.

On Sunday, searchers had halted their work at the mine, Johannesburg’s oldest, because of concerns about fire and poisonous gases below ground. But a rescue crew decided to descend Monday close to the entrance, where they heard the voices of the six rescued miners, World Bulletin reports.

The team said the only way to reach the trapped miners would be to crawl through 1.5km (0.9 miles) of small tunnels, adding that it can’t be done safely at the moment because of an ongoing underground fire, Times Live reported.

Illegal mining is common in South Africa, a major producer of gold and platinum. Recovering bullion prices, paired with unemployment, illegal migration, and poverty, have all contributed to the growth of the criminal activity, a source of informal employment to between 8,000 and 30,000 illegal miners across the country.

Efforts to tackle the problem have, so far, been futile, especially as the number of deserted mines grows. South Africa is believed to have approximately 6,000 abandoned mines and at least 1.6 million people living in informal settlements around Johannesburg, many of them on or near mine waste sites.

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