More Than 100 Miners Escape After Three-Day Standoff in South African Gold Mine

by Anna

Over 100 miners have successfully escaped from a gold mine in South Africa after being held underground for three days amid a union dispute involving around 450 workers. The standoff occurred at the Modder East mine in Springs, located east of Johannesburg, and began following the night shift on Monday. Mine officials revealed that approximately 15 miners sustained injuries during scuffles, including one individual with a serious head injury. When mine officials sent a paramedic and a security officer to evacuate the injured miner, they were also taken hostage.

Ziyaad Hassam, the head of legal at Gold One International, the company that owns the mine, stated that 109 miners managed to force their way out of the mine on Wednesday. He reported that they “banded together and overpowered those controlling them and blocking the exits,” and added, “They are tired, exhausted, and dehydrated.” Those who emerged were providing statements to the police and undergoing examinations at a clinic, but none appeared to have any serious injuries.


The standoff continues as approximately 450 workers remain in the mine, with an unknown number of them preventing the others from leaving. The miners are demanding formal recognition of their labor union, The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). The mine currently has a closed-shop agreement for its miners to be represented by another union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).


AMCU regional secretary Tladi Mokwena emphasized that the workers want to be represented by AMCU, stating, “They want to be represented by AMCU as the trade union of their choice.” He noted that mine management and NUM were refusing to grant AMCU access in terms of recognition.


The rivalry between the AMCU and NUM unions is well-known in South African mining circles and has previously led to violent conflicts, such as the Marikana mine shootings in 2012, in which 34 striking miners were killed by police.


Police at the Modder East mine have not launched an operation to go underground and confront the miners holding others, instead taking a cautious approach to the situation. The mining industry and labor unions have been sources of tension and conflict in South Africa for many years, with various disputes and strikes affecting the country’s mining operations.

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