Five people have died in a blast during illegal mining activities at the Klipwal Mine in KwaZulu-Natal, the mining company announced on Sunday.
“Despite extensive search and rescue operations… five illegal miners have lost their lives in a blasting accident,” Birrell Mining CEO, Lloyd Birrell, said in a statement.
It was believed that four of the miners were killed instantly and another later succumbed to his injuries. “The remaining eight illegal miners escaped, although three were arrested later.”
On Friday, police received information about a reported accident, following which mine management dispatched a team underground to verify if this had occurred.
“The underground mine workings are under care and maintenance, and given the size and complexity of the mine, it took the team several hours to find the scene of the accident.”
The police were then notified and guided to the site.
“The SAPS advised mine management that this operation no longer comprises a viable rescue. The area where the illegal operations were carried out has collapsed completely, and the rescue team were forced to evacuate the area due to ongoing hanging wall collapses,” Birrell said.
Recovery of dead ‘extremely hazardous’
The department of mineral resources then dispatched a team that conducted an investigation into the accident.
“After extensive assessment, mine management was advised there is no possibility of any survivors, and that recovery of the deceased illegal miners would be extremely hazardous,” the statement said.
Birrell said it appeared that a group of 13 illegal miners had broken into a section of the mine – which had been closed for years – and had used illegal explosives to try and blast pillars in the stopes.
He said it was this practice that would have caused Friday’s hanging wall collapse.
Birrell said the mine was sealed and daily operations conducted to try and prevent illegal mining.
He said it was suspected the group had made their way into the area at night.
Illegal mining increasingly violent
“These illegal mining activities have become increasingly violent, with syndicates of illegal miners deploying firearms, explosives and sabotage of mine property,” Birrell said.
A number of arrests related to illegal mining had taken place over the past few months.
Birrell said no mining personnel had been involved in the accident.
“I wish to express my personal gratitude to the mine management and personnel, who worked tirelessly and in a situation of great danger and stress to rescue the very same illegal miners who have been intimidating, assaulting, and shooting at them.”[Source: News24]