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South Africa: Trapped illegal miners arrested after escape


Ten illegal gold miners have been arrested after emerging from an old South African mine, with more still underground.

Some of the men came out after being told there were no police around.

The miners are reported to have been trapped by a rival group.

Those underground are once more refusing to leave the mine shaft for fear of being arrested.

The landscape around the abandoned mine near Johannesburg is dotted with similar abandoned shafts – attracting men from around the region with the promise of remaining gold deposits.

Some men may also be resisting coming to the surface of the mine because they fear losing any gold they have found, say correspondents.

Previous reports suggested as many as 200 fellow miners remained underground, but the latest estimates put the figure far lower, at about 15.

One man came halfway up the shaft and then turned round when he saw the cameras.

Ten illegal gold miners have been arrested after emerging from the old South African mine

Ten illegal gold miners have been arrested after emerging from the old South African mine

Notices warning miners that they face arrest and that the mine will be sealed in two weeks’ time have been thrown down the shaft.

Many of the miners are from Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, officials say.

The official rescue operation was suspended on Sunday after 11 miners agreed to come out. All 11 face charges of illegal mining, police say.

Other trapped miners refused to leave after discovering they faced arrest.

Rescue personnel were seen negotiating with the men and those emerging were not immediately arrested.

It appears police “allowed” one miner to walk away – as a tactic to convince others to come out.

The 10 men are all said to be in good health.

The men are believed to have become trapped because a rival group of miners stole some of their gold haul and then blocked the shaft with rocks to prevent a pursuit.

The miners are believed to have been trapped since Saturday morning in an open field near the town of Benoni.

The men used an old ventilation shaft to access the mine – one of many such holes in the area.

Police heard cries for help when they were patrolling the area on Sunday morning.

The men do not want to relinquish the gold they have found. They are leaving gold underground because they know they will face a harsher jail term if found in possession of illegally mined gold.

Mining is a vital part of the South African economy and the country is the fourth-biggest gold exporter.

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