Hundreds of Illegal Miners Trapped In South African Goldmine

Rescuers are trying to reach the trapped miners at a site east of Johannesburg

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Updated Feb. 16 at 4:36 p.m. EST

More than 200 miners have been trapped while illegally mining for gold in an abandoned South Africa mine shaft, though rescue workers say that many men underground who have been reached refuse to leave for fear of arrest. 

Rescuers were communicating with 30 miners who were trapped by fallen boulders, who said more than 200 were trapped further below an old mine site in Benoni, a suburb east of Johannesburg, Reuters reports. At least 12 miners were escorted to safety, dehydrated but in good health, but many are still underground.

Authorities brought in heavy equipment to remove boulders from the mine, which is being prospected by a Chinese-owned bullion producer but not currently worked.

Illegal mining of shafts is common in mineral-rich South Africa, where miners informally excavate ore in dangerous conditions.

This story has been updated to reflect the rescue of 12 miners and some miners’ refusal to leave the mine.