Cause of Harmony Gold mine blaze under investigation

The fire broke out more than 2,000 meters below surface.

FILE: Investigations are now underway to determine the cause of a blaze that broke out underground at the Harmony Gold mine in Carletonville on Sunday with more than 400 workers being trapped.  Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Investigations are now underway to determine the cause of a blaze that broke out underground at the Harmony Gold mine in Carletonville on Sunday with more than 400 workers being trapped.

Rescue teams worked until Sunday night to take the workers to so-called 'rescue bays' where they have access to fresh air and water.

The fire broke out more than 2,000 meters below surface.

The mine's Pam McLeod says, "So far 286 are safely in rescue bay, they have access to fresh air and oxygen and mine rescue teams are currently underground locating the remainder of the people."

Around 12 hours passed between when the fire broke out at the Kusasalethu gold mine near Carletonville and confirmation that all the miners were safe.

Harmony Gold's Charmaine Russel says despite the hours the miners spent trapped underground, there are no reports of any injuries.

She says a full investigation will now unfold.

"You need to understand, we don't know what actually took place."

On Sunday night, President Jacob Zuma had expressed shock and concern for the miners asking the nation to keep them in their thoughts and prayers.

At the same time, The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has called for a thorough investigation into the cause of a blaze.

The NUM's Frans Baleni says, "It's also extremely concerning that there seems to be a human error at this stage but we are waiting on a full investigation."

He says the union has already contacted the Department of Mineral Resources to investigate the matter.