South Africa’s National Union for Mineworkers (NUM) have confirmed on Saturday, December 7th that four miners remain trapped underground after a rock fall at Tau Lekoa mine in Orkney in the North West, according to AFP.
The incident occurred on Friday, December 6th. Meanwhile, more than 100 rescue workers are trying to burrow their way into the heart of the collapsed Tau Lekoa mine to free the four trapped miners.
One miner was rescued with serious injuries while four others are trapped underground, according to NUM.
“As we speak, four miners, who are NUM members, are still trapped underground,” NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said on Saturday morning.
“The proto teams were able to communicate with them in the afternoon, but late at night they were no longer responding and this for us is a cause for concern,” Mammburu said.
It has been revealed that the last time there was communication with the workers was at around 5:00 a.m. local time (0300 GMT) on Saturday, sparking fears "they might not be in good health," said NUM president Joseph Montisetse.
Montisetse stated that the area in question had poor ventilation and no escape route. The poor ventilation and extreme heat have added great urgency to the rescue efforts with the knowledge that the four men are unlikely to survive being trapped underground for very long.
“One person was able to be rescued and flown to hospital,” Montisetse added.
"The last person we talked to said, 'We are suffocating; please, bring us some oxygen,'" he remarked.
As rocks continued to fall underground, it would take three to four days to rescue the miners, NUM said in a statement.
NUM called for "drastic action" to improve the safety standards and procedures at mines, accusing mining companies of forcing miners to work in unsafe areas, thus pushing fatalities to "crisis levels."
The Department of Mineral Resources pointed out that South Africa recorded 88 deaths in the mining sector in 2017 and 81 deaths in 2018.
South Africa is home to the world's deepest mines, where deadly accidents involving miners are common.