Twenty-two Gold Miners Charged with Illegal Mining

February 17, 2014


In Johannesburg twenty-two gold miners have been arrested and will be charged with illegal mining. Many of those arrested are illegal migrants from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho. Illegal mining is common in the gold mines around Johannesburg with informal miners living underground in dangerous, cramped conditions for weeks at a time.


The illegal work was discovered when approximately 200 miners were trapped in the abandoned gold mineshaft east of Johannesburg. The miners were trapped by fallen boulders below the surface at the old mine site in Benoni. The mines have been closed due to dangerous work conditions and officials are not surprised that the mineshaft collapsed.


"It is definitely a common occurrence in South Africa," Werner Vermaak, an emergency services spokesman told Al Jazeera. "These mines have been closed down because they are too dangerous to mine".


However, migrant miners are willing to take the risk. Many refused assistance by rescue team for fear of being arrested. At least 11 miners were escorted out of the mines on Sunday but more are believed to be hiding out in the shafts. Those that did escape the mine were dehydrated and some needed medical attention but no one was seriously hurt.


Illegal mining continues to thrive in South Africa, a major producer of gold and platinum. Even though the mines are closed doesn't mean ore can't still be mined and many migrant workers brave unsafe conditions below to extract precious metals from the shaft.


While mine owners are taking steps to block access to the mines, migrant workers are digging tunnels to find their way in. South Africa's mining industry is struggling with rising costs and tens of thousands of workers in the platinum sector are currently on strike.