According to Village Main Reef (VMR), the four workers who have died were Xolani Meva, 42, of Elliotdale and Lungile Nyawose, 32, from Lusikisiki, both drillers with 11 years of service; Katleho Nthibane, 47, from Bloemfontein, a team leader with 18 years of service; and Karabo Mabuthile, 35, a driller from Fochville with two years of service.
The final body from the group of four mineworkers who were trapped in a gold mine near Orkney was recovered by rescue workers on Sunday.
Earlier, spokesperson James Duncan said the first three recoveries at the Tau Lekoa mine were made at around 7pm.
“The board and management of VMR extend their deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the workers who have died,” said the company.
Five workers were trapped by a rockfall following seismic activity in the mine on Friday afternoon. One of them was rescued soon afterwards and has been in a serious but stable condition in hospital.
More than 100 people – volunteers from the company’s own workforce as well as specially trained rescue teams from Mines Rescue Services – had been involved in the rescue, some 1,350m below the surface.
NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu expressed sadness at seeing the fatalities brought to the surface. Mammburu has called for “drastic action” to improve the safety standards and procedures at mines
NUM president Joseph Montisetse believed the workers had been mining natural support pillars within the mine shaft and failed to create new artificial support pillars out of rock and cement, according to TimesLive.
Duncan said they would not respond to any allegations about safety until the Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate investigated the circumstances of the accident.
The rescue team said they lost contact with the four underground miners at around 5am on Saturday.
“The last person we talked to said: ‘We are suffocating please, bring us some oxygen’,” he added.
Deadly accidents involving miners are common in South Africa, which has the deepest mines in the world.
Last year 81 people died in the mines, according to the department of mineral resources.
Four workers died after being trapped in a shaft at the same mine as the result of a seismic incident in the town on 22 July. The bodies were also subsequently recovered.
Up until 23 September 2019, there were already 35 fatalities in South Africa’s mining industry this year, according to data compiled by the Minerals Council. This has been a large decrease from previous years, though the mining industry has also been contracting and shedding jobs.