Rescue teams unable to make contact with missing miners

Rescue teams at Impala Platinum mine’s Number One shaft have now reached the stope face 800m underground where two missing miners were believed to have been trapped on Tuesday morning, but have not yet found them.

Two rock drill operators aged 55 and 40 years old went missing when a 30m by 40m area collapsed on the 19th level of the platinum shaft in Rustenburg in the North West. They were working with a team of eight other people, who managed to escape unharmed.

“While they were working, they started hearing noises and sensed there was instability underground. It’s clear they became aware that things aren’t as they should be and decided immediately to withdraw from the area. During that process, the collapse occurred and the two other workers went missing,” Johan Theron, spokesperson at Impala Platinum mine, told the Mail & Guardian.

The rescue operation has now passed the 48-hour mark and officials at the mine say they are concerned because they have not yet made contact with the missing workers.

“The main problem is the likelihood of physical injuries. The rescue pack sustains you for an hour and there is a continuous flow of air but we don’t know if they have been injured because we are not able to make contact with them. Our prayers remain with the families and missing miners, we’re still holding out for hope but conscious that it’s been 48 hours so we trying to get there as quick as possible. ” Theron said.

Yesterday the team used of a proximity detection system to locate transponder’s placed inside the workers’ helmet lamps but this was unsuccessful.

The families of the two workers are also on site at the platinum mine, along with a senior delegation from the Associated Mineworkers and Construction Union, the majority worker representative at the mine.

Impala Platinum also said it is too early to speculate about the cause of the collapse but a full investigation will follow soon.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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