Nearly 1,000 gold miners trapped underground

JOHANNESBURG – More than 950 workers are trapped underground in a gold mine in South Africa after a thunderstorm caused a lift to break down, preventing them from getting out.

The miners were awaiting evacuation from the Beatrix mine in Free State province, some 122km (76 miles) north of the city of Bloemfontein on Thursday.

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Without electricity, lifts could not bring the night shift workers to the surface, but they “appear to be fine”, a spokesman for their employer said.

Sixty-five people were rescued during the day, but hundreds of others are still thought to be trapped.

The workers, trapped since Wednesday night, are not believed to be in immediate danger, but mine unions have expressed concern that they could suffer from dehydration and lack access to medication.

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South Africa is a leading gold producer, but the industry has often been accused of a poor safety record.

The Beatrix mine is in Welkom town, about 290km (180 miles) south-west of Johannesburg. It is owned by Sibanye-Stillwater mining firm. It has 23 levels, going down to 1,000 metres (3,280 ft) below ground.

Food and water is being delivered to those trapped in the mine, which is run by the Sibanye-Stillwater company – the largest individual producer of gold in the country.

Engineers are said to be struggling to get emergency generators working in order to re-start the lift, which serves one of four operating shafts in the mine.

The National Union of Mineworkers (Num) said the rescue process was “very slow”.

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South Africa has some of the world’s deepest and most dangerous mines.

More than 80 fatalities were recorded in the country’s mines in 2017.