The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has announce an ongoing investigation on the tragic deaths of 31 suspected illegal miners in the Free State province.
The victims, believed to be Basotho nationals, lost their lives in the Virginia mine ventilation Shaft 5 in Welkom.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations of the Kingdom of Lesotho informed the South African High Commission about the incident, stating that the mine shaft, which had been inactive since the 1990s, became the site of the unfortunate incident on 18 May 2023.
They stresed that efforts are underway to gather information about the incident, and the retrieval of three bodies has been reported by other illegal miners.
However, the dangerous levels of methane in Shaft 5 currently pose a significant risk, preventing the dispatch of a search team.
The Department further added that it is working closely with the mine’s previous owners, Harmony, to assess the situation and explore options to address the issue promptly.
“Working in collaboration with the previous owners of the mine, Harmony, the DMRE inspectors have assessed the situation and determined that methane levels at the mine ventilation shaft 5 are very high. As such, it is currently too risky to dispatch a search team to the shaft. However, we are considering various options to speedily deal with the situation.
Although this is a unique and strange situation, all relevant stakeholders will endeavor to ensure that the suspected deceased illegal miners are brought to the surface,” Department of Mineral Resources, South Africa wrote.