In another twist involving the public protector’s office‚ the Minister of Co-operative Governance an.
Masoka Dube and Alfred Moselakgomo
Rescue teams and police yesterday called off their search-and-rescue operation for two illegal miners trapped in Fairview Mine, an abandoned mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga.
Three other men who were with the two died after reportedly inhaling smoke in the belly of the mine at the weekend.
Constable Jabulile Ndubane, a spokesman for the Barberton police, said the search, which started on Monday night, was called off yesterday afternoon because of "intense smoke" inside the mine.
The incident comes a month after five other illegal miners were killed in a rockfall in the same mine.
They were part of a group of seven who had gone underground searching for gold. They were trying to get out of the mine when the rocks fell on them.
In the latest incident, a witness, who is also a mineworker, told police he saw 11 men enter the mine holding bags.
He said when he and his fellow workers tried to stop the gold smugglers from entering the mine, they ignored them and went inside.
"We told them about the bad smell that was coming from one of the mine shafts, but they would not listen," said the miner, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Ndubane said six illegal miners were arrested as they exited the mine shaft carrying bags of gold.
"We arrested six illegal miners and three others were found dead on Monday. Those who were arrested told us their two friends were still inside the mine," said Ndubane.
Two of the arrested miners said they left the mine because of the unbearable smell.
Ndubane said the six appeared in the Barberton magistrates' court on a charge of trespassing. They were remanded in custody and their case was postponed to March 12.
Ndubane said the search for the two trapped miners would resume when conditions inside the mine allowed operations to continue.