Five illegal miners found dead in abandoned South African shaft

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 26, 2014 8:07 AM

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Five illegal miners have been found dead in an abandoned shaft near Johannesburg, emergency services said on Wednesday, highlighting the dangers of scavenging for bullion beneath Africa's financial center.

Two illegal migrants from Zimbabwe died earlier this month in another disused gold mine on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

Emergency services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said the five bodies were brought to surface on Tuesday night and were confirmed dead at the scene. The bodies were recovered in an old shaft in Roodepoort, just west of Johannesburg.

"We can't confirm the cause of death yet, it could have been a number of things," said Mulaudzi.

Driven by desperation and poverty in a country with an unemployment rate of around 25 percent, illegal miners chance their luck in the labyrinth of some of the world's oldest and deepest gold mines, often armed with little more than a torch and pick-axe.

(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala; Editing by Ed Stoddard and Ruth Pitchford)