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Rescue Mission Underway for Illegal Miners at Namaqualand

May 23, 2012 4:03 AM   By Deena Taylor
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RAPAPORT... Three miners have been reported killed by collapsed tunnels in the Bontekoe area on the northern boundary of De Beers' Namaqualand mines. According to police spokeswoman Cherelle Ehlers, 16 men remained trapped underground in disused tunnels. Rescuers did not know the status of their conditions.

One miner was freed alive from rubble overnight and was recovering in the Springbok Hospital suffering from severe shock. Rescue efforts are being hampered by loose gravel, with the hole caving-in as fast as rescuers could dig, Ehlers said preventing rescue workers from retrieving the men, BBC reported.

These disused tunnels where the miners were digging for diamonds illegally were closed in April. Thirty men were in the tunnels when they collapsed at 3 a.m. yesterday, but 11 escaped and called for help.

De Beers began conducting a rescue mission for the illegal diggers yesterday, the company said in a statement. The mine management responded as soon as they were alerted to the incident and arrived at the site early Tuesday morning.

"We can confirm this evening that one person has been rescued and taken to hospital, and six or more people are being searched for. The rescue team is still carefully excavating the collapsed tunnels to investigate whether more people are trapped," according to the company statement

The South African police services disaster recovery unit from Kimberley then took charge of the site with officials from the department of mineral resources present at the operation.

Recently, groups of people have reportedly entered the mine's property, destroyed fences, ignored trespassing signs, evaded arrest, transported mining equipment and undertaken the dangerous excavation of tunnels, which have proven to be unsafe and have cost lives the in the past.

This past week, mine management communicated the dangers and illegal nature of mining activities on Namaqualand regional radio and in local community discussions.
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