The government of South Africa has announced the discovery of around 30 illegal miners who were found dead at the bottom of an abandoned mine, a month after reports of an incident in the small town of Welkom, known for its gold extraction, located 250 kilometers south of Johannesburg.
South Africa is grappling with high unemployment rates, and thousands of illegal miners, commonly known as “zama-zamas,” operate in the country. Some of these miners also come from Lesotho, a small kingdom completely surrounded by South Africa.
These workers descend into abandoned mines in an attempt to extract remaining precious metals, gemstones, or even coal.
According to the spokesperson of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Ernest Molipane, speaking to the French Press Agency (AFP), “Based on our information, individuals suspected to be illegal miners helped recover at least three bodies, while 28 others are still underground.”
The victims perished on May 18, according to the ministry, which has not yet determined the circumstances of their deaths.
Molipane further explained, “Due to the high levels of methane, it is currently dangerous for anyone to descend” into the mine, which had been operational until the 1990s before gold extraction ceased to be profitable.