The department of mineral resources (DMR) on Friday confirmed it was moving ahead with plans to shut down the shaft at the disused mine in Langlaagte, west of Johannesburg, where three illegal miners died last week after being trapped underground for days.
DMR spokesperson Martina Madlala said the department and the police, as well as the Mine Rescue Services and other stakeholders, had been on site to engage with the surrounding community and to disseminate information about the imminent closure.
Madlala said Minerals Minister Mosebenzi Zwane had noted that great vigilance was still required and commended the work being done by the joint operation. He said meanwhile, the department had to secure the site and make it safe.
Madlala also said the department had to enforce compliance with the law, that is the Mine Health and Safety Act and and the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act.
“The DMR is currently engaged in ongoing discussions with the relevant stakeholders, with the intention of having these mine openings closed or secured,” Madlala said.
“[Notices] were posted up and physical security has been deployed on site since 6am yesterday.”
Madlala said representatives from the department, Langlaagte police, mining companies Gold1, Goldfields and Harmony Gold, had been engaged with regards to issues of providing 24 hours physical security at the George Harrison Park, where the shaft was located.
“The police indicated that the assistance they will provide is when there’s confrontation with illegal miners,” Madlala said.
“The above mentioned Mining Companies Security is going to bring all their resources, including razor wire to safeguard the site and fix the concrete palisade fencing.”
An unconfirmed number of illegal miners entered the disused shaft to mine gold two weeks ago, and when they failed to emerge, 16 more went down the next day to look for them.
Rescue operations had to be halted after dangerous gases broke out underground after one body was recovered and a total of seven illegal miners were hospitalised and arrested.
Madlala said nine miners had surfaced since illegal miners volunteered to rescue two bodies on Tuesday night, and an unconfirmed number had been prevented from reentering the site.
It is suspected that there are multiple groups that operate at the closed mineshaft at Johannesburg’s oldest and disused gold mine. Illegal miners are said to have even nicknamed it “FNB” because it was lucrative.
“Information obtained from them and others has directed where agencies have directed their efforts. It is our intention to ensure that all persons have surfaced prior to sealing,” Madlala said.
“The highest priority is placed on the safety of all involved.”
– African News Agency (ANA)