31 Miners Feared Dead In Shuttered South African Mine Explosion, Authorities Say

Not associated with the story. (RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images)

John Oyewale Contributor
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Thirty-one suspected illegal miners are believed to have died in a disused gold mine gas explosion that only recently made headlines in late June, according to South African authorities.

The miners were from the country of Lesotho and likely died in the explosion May 18, according to a Friday press release from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE). The miners’ relatives had begun to report them missing, having not heard from them since May, and the explosion subsequently came to light, the Associated Press (AP) reported, citing a spokesperson for Lesotho Prime Minister Sam Matekane.

The disused mine was allegedly previously owned by Harmony, a gold and copper mining company headquartered in South Africa and self-described as “the largest gold producer by volume in South Africa.” The mine shaft has been shuttered since the 1990s, according to AP.

DMRE authorities previously determined that methane levels inside the mine shaft were very high, making a retrieval too risky and delaying their investigation into the matter, according to a June 22 media statement. (RELATED: Video Shows Miners Escaping From Collapsed Congolese Gold Mine)

Still, the DMRE pledged to speedily deal with what it called “a unique and strange situation” and ensure all the bodies are brought to the surface, according to the Friday press release.

Eight suspected illegal miners were found dead by the roadside in Gauteng Province, South Africa, in a separate incident Friday, Reuters reported.