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Fire, toxic gas halts langlaagte mine rescue


Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has visited the scene of this weekend’s mine disaster, in which an unknown number of people have been trapped while allegedly engaged in illegal mining.

Several people, including miners have been trapped in the historic George Harrison Mine in Langlaagte since last Wednesday. On Sunday, Executive Mayor Cllr Herman Mashaba visited the deserted mine in the west of the CBD to assess the situation.

“This is the same mine in which gold was first discovered in Johannesburg; it has a lot of historical heritage and significance, it can’t be the same place where illegal mining is allowed to take place and undermine the rule of law in the City of Joburg,” Mayor Mashaba told reporters outside the mine yesterday.

Minister Zwane’s visit on Monday afternoon followed Mayor Mashaba’s call for national government to intervene, saying the matter was “appalling and that illegal mining was totally unacceptable”.

Mayor Mashaba also appealed to the national government to deal decisively with illegal mining, which he said, encourages lawlessness in the city and ultimately in the country.
“Why are we allowing our mines to be taken over by criminal elements, that’s why our economy is suffering,” he says.

The Executive Mayor cited the country’s high unemployment rate as the main contributor to increased illegal mining activities.

Member of the Mayoral Committee for Public Safety Michael Sun says at least seven people have been rescued since operations began on the weekend and have been charged with illegal mining.

Minister Zwane says to prevent any fatalities, unqualified people and community members should refrain from rescuing their loved ones from underneath the gold mine.

In addition, Mayor Mashaba has appealed to illegal miners to stop their trade as their actions weren’t only catastrophic to their lives but adversely affected the local economy as it reduced investor confidence.

Joburg Emergency Management Services says rescue operations will remain suspended because the mine is susceptible to fire and has toxic gases.

On Monday, Joburg EMS Divisional Chief Synock Matobako says four people are still trapped inside the mothballed mine.

“The mine rescue team will say when operations will resume and the Joburg EMS will give support once illegal miners are on the surface.”

“But we’re appealing to illegal miners to stop going into disused mines as it’s very dangerous and structurally fragile. We’re also depriving Joburg residents of resources as ambulances, fire engines and manpower as they’re diverted to the rescue,” Matobako says.

Minister Zwane says all holes in areas where mines have stopped operating will be sealed in an attempt to deter people from engaging in illegal mining.