TWO SWAZI ILLEGAL MINERS KILLED IN BARBERTON ROCKFALL
Two Swazi illegal miners were among four that were killed by a rockfall in Barberton, South Africa this week.
This illicit mining is otherwise known as zama zama in the neighbouring country.
Musa Mnguni, Johane Magagula, Mduduzi Kunene and Siza Mavela Simelane were killed by a landfall in a defunct area of the mine at around 10pm on Tuesday.
Mnguni and Magagula are South Africans while Kunene and Simelane are from Swaziland.
According to the Lowevelder publication, it took about 18 hours to bring the bodies to the surface.
Another hour or so was spent transporting the bodies to the main road where family members and friends could identify their loved ones.
There were emotional moments while the bodies were brought to the surface. Community members blamed some authorities for not assisting.
“Yes, we understand that it is illegal, but when it comes to saving lives the government must intervene,” one told the Lowvelder newspaper.
According to some of the illegal miners who survived, one of the victims could have been saved had he received medical attention in time.
Galaxy General Manager, Dale Richards, said when they heard about the accident, they immediately dispatched mine engineers to investigate. The initial report was that up to 200 had been trapped.
Their engineers, however, deemed the entrance and access tunnel unsafe to enter. The community members, however, insisted, and went down in their numbers.
Once the rockfall was confirmed, the department of mineral resources activated mine rescue services to assist. It was about midnight on Wednesday, and too dangerous to access the area, Richards said.
“That part is up in a mountain, you can’t access it in the dark.”
They arrived at 5:30am on Thursday and investigated the scene, as two more men had been reported missing. By around 7am they had been found safe and sound by the community.
Galaxy Gold CEO, Dwaine Koch, confirmed that the mine was currently under care and maintenance.
The company employs regular security as well as TSU Security, a specialised unit.
Their presence on site has greatly reduced the number of illegal miners accessing Galaxy shafts over the past year, Richards said.
“We still have a problem. They do it out of poverty.”
One other zama zama has died as a result of rockfaal in the past year, Richards said.
Yet, security cannot cover all areas at all times and they break through the blockages Galaxy instals at the entrances to tunnels it does not use.
“What makes illegal gold mining so dangerous is that they chip away at the support pillars, which consist of ore matter,” Richards explained.
Some of the illegal miners told the newspaper that, while the accidents were scary, they would not back off their illegal mining activity because they have families to support.
“The unemployment rate is too high. For some of us it is very difficult to find employment due to our criminal records, which we got for being in possession of unlawful gold. This prevents us from becoming employed in local mines,” one explained. He would not give his name.