Gloria mine blast: Rescue or body retrieval mission?

Gupta-owned Gloria coal mine in Mpumalanga.
Gupta-owned Gloria coal mine in Mpumalanga.
Image: THULANI MBELE

While the business rescue representative for the Gupta-owned Gloria mine remained optimistic that there could still be survivors following a blast there‚ police on Monday said efforts to reach the trapped miners were no longer regarded as rescue operations.

“It is no longer a rescue mission‚ but it is a retrieval mission‚” said Brigadier Leonard Hlathi‚ implying they had little hope of finding any more survivors.

But speaking to sister publication TimesLIVE‚ business rescue representative for the mine Mike Elliot said “there is always hope”.

The mine outside Middelburg‚ Mpumalanga‚ was rocked by an underground gas explosion on February 6‚ when a group of people entered it illegally‚ allegedly to strip copper cables underground.

Rescue efforts have been stalled by several factors‚ including high levels of methane gas which threatened to cause another explosion.

Elliot said four teams had been working over the past 24 hours to try to make it safe for the rescue operations to proceed.

“They have been installing ventilation guidance to get some air to the place where the last seven bodies were found‚” said Elliot.

On Sunday‚ however‚ these efforts were disrupted when rescuers came across a high concentration of methane gas.

So far‚ 12 people have been confirmed dead following the blast‚ while it is still unclear how many miners remain trapped.

The mine‚ which has been non-operational for several months‚ forms part of the Optimum Coal assets bought by the Gupta family in 2016.

They were put into business rescue early in 2018.

- TMG Digital

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