Trapped South African miners arrested after escape

Johannesburg. Ten illegal gold miners have emerged, dusty and thirsty, from an old South African mine in which more are feared trapped.
Picture showing one miner shouting down the shaft to tell his colleagues there were no police around. Net photo.
Picture showing one miner shouting down the shaft to tell his colleagues there were no police around. Net photo.

Johannesburg. Ten illegal gold miners have emerged, dusty and thirsty, from an old South African mine in which more are feared trapped.

Some of the men came out when it seemed the threat of arrest had abated - but all 10 have now been detained, the BBC’s Nomsa Maseko tweeted. The police were hidden behind a fire engine, she said.

The miners are reported to have been trapped by a group of rival illegal miners.

The landscape around the abandoned mine near Johannesburg is dotted with similar abandoned shafts - attracting men from around the region with the promise of remaining gold deposits. Some men may also be resisting coming to the surface of the mine because they fear losing any gold they have found, say correspondents.

Previous reports suggested as many as 200 fellow miners remained underground, but our correspondent says the latest estimates put the figure far lower.

It is not clear when this operation will end, as it is not known exactly how many remain underground.

The official rescue operation was suspended on Sunday after 11 miners agreed to come out. All 11 have now been charged.

Other trapped miners refused to leave after discovering they faced arrest.

Earlier on Monday, a man was seen shouting down the shaft: “It is safe to come out, the police are not here,” our correspondent tweeted from the scene. Rescue personnel were seen negotiating with the men and those emerging were not immediately arrested.

But in a later tweet, our correspondent said a police van had been hidden at the scene and she later confirmed all 10 men who resurfaced on Monday had in fact been arrested.

It appears police “’allowed’ one miner to walk away - as a tactic to convince others to come out,” our correspondent tweeted.

The men are believed to have become trapped because a rival group of miners stole some of their gold haul and then blocked the shaft with rocks to prevent a pursuit. The miners are believed to have been trapped since Saturday morning in an open field near the town of Benoni. The men used an old ventilation shaft to access the mine - one of many such holes in the area.

Police heard cries for help when they were patrolling the area on Sunday morning.

It is not just the threat of arrest deterring the men from coming to the surface, our correspondent says.

The men do not want to relinquish the gold they have found. They are leaving gold underground because they know they will face a harsher jail term if found in possession of illegally mined gold.

 

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