SA mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane puts a temporary stop to the rescue mission of the Zama Zama group of illegal miners in Langlaagte, Johannesburg.
Minister Zwane ordered that no untrained persons should risk their lives trying to rescue the Zama Zama miners trapped at the mining site.
He also called on families of the trapped miners to cooperate with government and not to send unskilled personnel to the dangerous site.
“We request the community and family of the trapped miners to work together and not send any untrained person down this dangerous area to rescue the miners,” Zwane said.
The situation is not safe to send rescuers down. We also have to think about our rescue team and their safety,” he added.
The minister’s announcement followed a recent underground fire. He stressed that the situation in the site is not safe for rescuers to go in.
“We also have to think about our rescue team and their safety,” he said.
Three illegal miners, commonly known as “zama-zama” were arrested at the disused mine shaft at the early hours of Monday.
They were taken for questioning at the Langlaagte police station. There, Police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubela said four miners rescued on Sunday were also arrested while three other miners who had fled could not be considered to have escaped since police were not around at the time. He could not confirm how many were still trapped in the shaft.
Meanwhile, Johannesburg emergency services spokesperson Synock Matobako revealed that one of the miners died from carbon monoxide poisoning underground. He said he knew of at least five men still trapped.
The group of miners went into the shaft on Wednesday but got trapped and on Thursday, the following day, 16 miners went down to look for them. Only eight surfaced. Another eight people went down on Saturday morning to help with the search. Only four returned on Sunday.
Mineral resources Minister Zwane also revealed that most of the Zama Zama miners were not South Africans and that some were under the age of 12.
He lamented how the increased sentence for illegal mining from two years to 8 years has not been helpful as the miners were always going underground as long as there was a market for the gold they were mining.
“It does not deter illegal miners to open up holes again, because they know the areas,” he said.