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71 Basotho illegal miners rescued



MASERU – SEVENTY-ONE Basotho illegal miners who were trapped for three weeks were this week dragged out alive from a gold mine in Welkom, Free State.
Two Basotho men were brought to the surface dead, according to the Lesotho consular in Orkney, Liranyane Thamae.

Thamae, told thepost that out of the 95 illegal miners brought to the surface, 13 were Mozambicans.
Two Mozambicans also died during the operation.

“There were also four Zimbabweans and one South African (among the rescued),” he said.

The men had been trapped underground for three weeks before they were rescued.

“All of those who are alive are currently arrested and detained at different police stations,” Thamae said.

Foreign affairs principal secretary Thabo Motoko told a press conference over the weekend that “the main, dominant illegal miners are citizens of Lesotho”.
Motoko said last Thursday “we took out seven Zimbabwean citizens and on the second day we took out 16 Lesotho citizens”.

“On the third day we took out 20 more Basotho and on Sunday we took out four,” Motoko said.

“One would say the crime is highly organised, for us to address it we need to find the root course,” he said.

“Not any person buys gold, we need to find the kingpins so that the issue is addressed.”

Motoko said the South African government must be willing to address the problem, in particular the Ministry of Mining and Natural Resources.

“It is not going to stop until we find the root cause.”

The trapped illegal miners were said to be dying of dehydration and starvation after their exit holes were blocked because their supply of food and water had been cut.
The mine authorities blocked their exit hole after discovering that they were stealing gold.

They have spent three weeks without supplies and it is believed many died underground.

Basotho men have been migrating to neighbouring South Africa to work in its mines since the 1950s, but in the last decade many have been retrenched as mining companies have closed down risky or unprofitable operations.

It is in these closed mines where illegal operations happen, although some braver ones dig in those that are still operational.
For the past seven years at least 391 Basotho illegal miners were brought out alive at several mines.

In 2021, about 371 Basotho illegal miners came to the surface voluntarily at the Vaal Reefs Mine, where they were working at the shaft which had been closed many years earlier.
That came after the South African police discovered 20 bodies from a different shaft in Orkney.

Among the 20 bodies, 11 were Basotho illegal miners.
Also 14 more decomposed bodies were found along Ariston Road near a railway line in Orkney.

Staff Reporter

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