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South Africa miners resurface after underground dispute

By AFP
South Africa The Gold One mine at Springs in South Africa where more than 400 miners were blockaded for more than four days, according to the mine owners.  By MARCO LONGARI AFP
DEC 11, 2023 LISTEN
The Gold One mine at Springs in South Africa where more than 400 miners were blockaded for more than four days, according to the mine owners. By MARCO LONGARI (AFP)

Hundreds of South African gold miners who were blockaded underground for more than four days started returning to the surface on Monday, AFP reporters saw.

More than 400 miners were held below ground at Springs, east of Johannesburg, on Thursday evening in a near repeat of a three-day protest in October, the Gold One company said.

The miners started coming out in small groups on Monday morning.

Some raised their fist in the air as they walked past a security fence near the mine entrance.

A few dozen workers and relatives who were camped outside the mine cheered as they started coming out.

"We are getting reports that the situation is reaching a conclusion and that people are starting to emerge from underground," Ziyaad Hassam, head of legal affairs at the Gold One mine in Springs, Gauteng province, told AFP.

One worker among the group who came out told AFP that conditions underground had become unbearable after days with little food and water.

A small group of balaclava-wearing employees took fellow workers "hostage" on Thursday, preventing them from going to the surface, Gold One said.

More than 500 miners were trapped for almost three days at the same mine in October during a standoff between rival unions.

The new "hostage situation" was linked to disciplinary hearings over the previous incident, which led to the dismissal of about 50 workers, Hassam said.

Rebel miners demanded they be reinstated.

About a dozen miners managed to escape or were released on health grounds over the weekend, he added.

By Monday, the situation below ground had become "very critical" with reports of some employees suffering from dehydration and fights among workers, he said.

"We are concerned about the health and safety of all the employees," Hassam said.

Workers will undergo health checks and be given food once out, he added.

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