Thirsty and starving, and with colleagues lying dead beside them, a group of illegal miners in Orkney, North West, who were trapped in a mine shaft had no choice but to seek help getting back to the surface.
The zama-zamas, all of them residing illegally in South Africa, were rescued from underground by authorities over a four-day operation and were later arrested.
Four decomposed bodies were also found in the shaft.
Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said the illegal miners had asked mine management to help them get out of the shaft because they were starving.
Mokgwabone said a multi-disciplinary team comprising the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Illicit Mining Team, Orkney Visible Policing and detectives as well as a mining rescue team were sent on the mission.
“The team managed to rescue 77 illegal miners between Thursday, 14 and Monday, 18 April 2022,” Mokgwabone said.
He said the miners, who were all medically examined, comprised 60 men from Lesotho, 13 from Mozambique and four from Zimbabwe.
They are expected to appear before the Orkney Magistrate’s Court soon to face charges of trespassing, illegal mining and contravention of Section 49(1)(a) of the Immigration Act, 2002 (Act No. 13 of 2002).