Men nabbed as they emerge from shaft

Sakhile Mokoena

Sakhile Mokoena

Fourteen men appeared in the Barberton magistrates' court yesterday on charges of illegal mining and the possession of explosives.

The men were arrested on Wednesday. They are believed to be linked to other thefts of gold from old mines near the town.

Barberton police spokesman Jabu Ndubane said the men were arrested by mine security guards when they emerged from a shaft on Wednesday morning.

"This is the same group that was trapped in the mine last month after the rope they were using to climb broke," said Ndubane.

The men were not asked to plead and the case was postponed to December 28.

They will all remain in custody.

Police are struggling to identify the body of a man found in an old Barberton mine shaft two weeks ago.

It is not yet known if the body is that of Alfred Dliwako, a Zimbabwean who is reported to have plunged down a 120m-deep hole.

A search for Dliwako's body was called off after three weeks in October when it was decided that it had became too costly to continue.

"We are going to question the men [arrested for illegal mining] about the death of the man [found in the shaft] and about his identity," Ndubane said yesterday.

Police said illegal mining in the old mines of Barberton had long been a problem, especially during holiday periods, when mine workers are on leave from operative mines.