The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has confirmed that five workers were trapped after a rockfall, but one was rescued shortly after the incident and rushed to hospital with serious injuries.
They are feared to have been cut off from oxygen, their union said Saturday.
The rescue team said they lost contact with the four underground miners at around 5am on Saturday, sparking fears “they might not be in good health,” said NUM president Joseph Montisetse.
“The last person we talked to said: ‘We are suffocating please, bring us some oxygen’,” he added.
The rescue team “now estimates that it will take three or four days to rescue the four mineworkers because of the massive rocks that continue to fall underground,” said the NUM’s statement.
Deadly accidents involving miners are common in South Africa, which has the deepest mines in the world.
Last year 81 people died in the mines, according to the department of mineral resources.
Efforts to save the miners were continuing without rest, NUM president Joseph Montisetse told eNCA.
Four workers died after being trapped in a shaft at the same mine as the result of a seismic incident in the town on 22 July. The bodies were subsequently recovered.
Up until 23 September 2019, there were already 35 fatalities in South Africa’s mining industry this year, according to data compiled by the Minerals Council. This has been a large decrease from previous years, though the mining industry has also been contracting and shedding jobs.