[UPDATE] ‘Over 336 trapped Sibanye-Stillwater miners rescued’

It's understood over 900 miners remain stranded following a severe storm that cut all power to the area on Wednesday night.

The Sibanye-Stillwater mine. Picture: sibanyestillwater.com

JOHANNESBURG - Sibanye-Stillwater says 336 more mineworkers have been rescued from its Beatrix Mine in Welkom after being trapped since Wednesday night.

More than 900 workers have been trapped underground since Wednesday night following a severe storm in the area which left the mine without power.

The mine says it’s working around the clock to bring all those trapped safely above ground.

Spokesperson James Wellsted says the trapped miners are being well looked-after.

“They’re all in a safe area that’s ventilated. They have access to water and food. According to the feedback on the ground, nobody has been injured. There’s no real danger at the moment, obviously, we’d like to rescue them as soon as possible.”

CONCERNS OVER RESCUE MISSION

Mining unions say they're concerned at the speed at which the miners are being rescued.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) says while power is being restored, only one worker is being rescued at a time.

The NUM's Libhuwani Mammburu said: “The rescue operation is very slow because only one mineworker at a time is being rescued and those who have been rescued are suffering from heat, cramp, shock and dehydration.”

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union's Joseph Mathunjwa says this incident shows just how invaluable the lives of mineworkers are to the big corporations they work for.

“The life of the mineworker is very cheap because it’s clear that they don’t invest in prevention [methods] because each and every mine, we must have a proper generator as a backup and also it raises some questions in terms of their escape route.”

Wellsted says they hope to get all the miners to surface soon.

“They have all been accounted for, they’re at the waiting station. And we are providing food and water. So, we hope to get them out really soon.”

CONFLICTING NUMBERS

It’s unclear exactly how many mineworkers remain trapped underground, with the NUM saying the number stands well over 1,000.

The union says more than 1,035 miners are still trapped.

Mammburu said: “There are 800 mineworkers who are currently trapped at number 3 shaft, and 300 were trapped at number 2 shaft.”

At the same time, Mathunjwa has questioned whether Sibanye-Stillwater has sufficient contingency plans in place in the event of power cuts.

“The mine cannot have only one escape route, which is a shaft. They should have other means if one shaft is blocked, so they would be able to rescue workers. At this point in time, it’s clear that there’s no rescue plan in place.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance says it's keeping a close eye on the situation.

The party’s Hendrik Schmidt said: “We call on the mining companies to monitor the situation and to ensure the safety of all miners concerned, and if necessary to stop all operations until all miners have been secured.”