Illegal miners holed up in South African mine

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

JOHANNESBURG -- While dozens of illegal miners remain underground, refusing to come up for fear of being arrested, three more miners surfaced on Tuesday from an abandoned mine near Johannesburg after being trapped underground, emergency workers said.

"They resurfaced this morning and were arrested for illegal mining," spokesman David Tshabalala told the South African Press Association. "In total, 25 have come out so far."

Tshabalala could not say how many more were still underground, but emergency workers initially said there were 200 illegal miners trapped in the mine.

Police say the miners, who are all foreigners, were found Sunday when police patrolling the area heard screaming from the abandoned mine. According to rescue workers, the men were apparently trapped underground when a rival group threw boulders down the open mine shaft.

Emergency workers said Tuesday some of the miners who were working illegally were reluctant to come out of the shaft because they feared arrest. However, as police have withdrawn from the scene, most of the remaining miners are expected to come to the surface.

Penalties for illegal mining include fines and prison time in some cases. Illegal mining is common in South Africa, a major producer of gold and platinum. (AP)

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