Joy, panic as some miners ‘held hostage’ underground emerge

About 200 mineworkers have resurfaced from the Gold One Modder East Operations mine in Springs, east of Johannesburg.

The group was welcomed by joyful colleagues and familis who are camping outside the mine. However, others were left frustrated and panicking that their loved ones were not part of the group that came out.

Gold One spokesperson and head of legal Ziyaad Hassam said on Wednesday that the workers started emerging from underground at about 7am.

This after reports that members belonging to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) had held over 500 mineworkers hostage underground.

Hundreds of workers have been stuck underground since Sunday.

Amcu dismisses hostage reports

The leadership of Amcu has since dismissed reports that its members had held their colleagues against their will.

Hassam said the workers who resurfaced have not been injured.

“They came out in the last two hours [around 7am]. They all seem to be in reasonably good spirits,” Hassam said.

“None of them have any injuries. They are just tired, dehydrated and hungry.”

He said a group of mineworkers who resurfaced managed to break free from their colleagues who were allegedly holding them hostage.

“A group of around 150 of them got together and decided to make an attempt to break free from the people holding them against their will.

“They literally walked out without any resistance or scuffles. They were allowed to walk out. And then another group of around 60 followed them out as well.”

Women, elderly stuck underground

Hassam said the workers who came out would be allowed to go home and reunite with their family members.

Hassam said: “We are trying to check their health and wellbeing and see if they are in a healthy state to give statements to us internally and to the police.

“They are tired, hungry and dehydrated, so we do not want to keep them here for longer.”

He added that the mine does not detailed information regarding those who are still stuck underground, saying at least 15 of them are injured.

Among those who are still underground are two paramedics and a security officer employed by the mine.

“Some of the people still underground include women, the elderly and injured. The younger and fittest ones are the ones who came out.

“Our priority right now is to release those who are underground.”

Mine security and police are on the scene monitoring the situation.

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