More miners found dead in South Africa, toll over 60

June 2nd, 2009 - 9:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, June 2 (DPA) The toll in one of the worst mining accidents in South Africa in recent years rose to 67 Tuesday as more bodies of illegal miners who died at a gold mine in Free State province were brought to the surface.
The police said 25 more bodies had been recovered from Harmony Gold Mining Company’s Eland mine Tuesday.

On Monday, Harmony, the world’s fifth-largest gold producer, said the bodies of 36 illegal miners had been pulled out of the mine by fellow illegal miners last weekend. The miners said a fire had broken out underground in an abandoned part of the mine.

Police said another six miners had been found dead at the same mine.

Illegal mining is rampant in South African gold mines, especially when gold prices are high.

The miners comb disused parts of mines for gold deposits, working at great personal risk, because these part of the mine, when no longer maintained, fill with noxious gases and are prone to fires.

The miners that escaped the accident had asked Harmony to send workers down to fetch the bodies but Harmony had refused to risk its own workers, Marian Van der Walt, a spokeswoman for Harmony, said.

Van der Walt said the miners had probably suffocated.

Over the past two weeks, 294 illegal miners have been found at Eland mine and charged, Harmony said.

Police captain Stephen Thakeng told DPA the miners were usually from South Africa or from neighbouring Lesotho and Mozambique. Both Lesotho and Mozambique have for decades supplied workers to gold mines in South Africa, the world’s third-largest gold producing country, after China and the US.

In 2007, 23 illegal miners died in an underground fire, also in Free State province.

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