Search resumes for trapped illegal miners at Gupta-owned mine

13 February 2019 - 10:13 By Iavan Pijoos

Fresh air will soon be pumped into the Gloria coal mine in Mpumalanga to allow the search, rescue and retrieval operation for trapped illegal miners to resume.

"We are going through all the hardware that has arrived and we are busy connecting everything up to get the fan to blow fresh air into the mine," business rescue representative for the mine Mike Elliot told TimesLIVE on Wednesday morning.

Elliot said that the air is to be pumped into the shaft to remove all the poisonous gasses in order for them to establish a fresh air base at the bottom of the shaft.

"Once that is done our mine rescue services teams will go into the mine and start to make the mine safe towards the area where we anticipate the people are," Elliot said.  

Employees from the mine halted the rescue operation last week with a protest about unpaid salaries.

Elliot said at the time that there was no money to pay the disgruntled employees.

"In business rescue we were generating money for the employees. They have been receiving their salaries all the way up to the end of October [2018]. Basically, the cash got used to pay Eskom and other creditors to keep the mine operations running. Eventually the bills far exceeded the amount of income. We just ran out of cash and there wasn't production to look after it. We got our legs cut out from underneath us," he said.

The Gloria mine forms part of the Optimum Coal assets bought by the Gupta family in 2016. They were put into business rescue early in 2018.

Several illegal miners were trapped underground after a gas explosion last week Wednesday while they were stripping cables at the mine, which has been closed for several months.

The bodies of five miners were recovered. It is unclear how many miners are still trapped underground.


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