All 955 South African gold miners, who had been trapped underground in a mine near the city of Welkom after a storm caused a massive power outage on Wednesday night, have been freed, BBC reported.
“Everybody is out,” said James Wellsted, a Spokesperson for Sibanye-Stillwater, the firm that operates the mine. There were “cases of dehydration and high blood pressure but nothing serious”, he added.
“It was stressful, there was not enough ventilation,” AFP quoted mineworker Mike Khonto as saying. “Thankfully our management managed to send us food and water.”
The workers could not get out as the lifts that bring them up stopped working because of the power outage. Wellsted said one cable was restored on Thursday, and 272 workers were rescued. One unidentified mineworker, however, claimed that the incident could have been prevented. “They should have had some generators that were working,” the miner said. “Security is the least of their worries. They only care about production.”
The National Union of Mineworkers also said in a statement overnight that mine safety is often neglected and urged mineworkers to refuse to work in “dangerous conditions”, AFP reported, quoting a statement from the union. “Major multinational corporations like Sibanye-Stillwater which should be industry leaders in creating a safety culture are doing far too little to prevent accidents.”
The unions’ spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu told Reuters that the company was rescuing one mineworker at a time. “It is very slow. It is worrying. Some of our members have chronic conditions and they don’t have medication down there.”
South Africa is a leading producer of gold and some of the world’s deepest mines. There were at least 80 mine deaths in the country in 2017.