A miner during a rescue operation at Kusasalethu gold mine on February 22, 2015 in Cartlonville, South Africa.
JOHANNESBURG - Five miners have died after being trapped underground at the Phalaborwa Copper mine in Limpopo.
Initially, 6 workers were trapped and the whereabouts of the sixth worker was not immediately known, or whether he was still alive.
Palabora Copper confirmed on Sunday night that it experienced a fire at an underground conveyer belt during the early hours of Sunday morning.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) has confirmed that one workers&39; body has been brought to the surface while the bodies of four were still trapped underground.
Mine management and officials from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) were investigating the cause of the incident.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said in a statement on Sunday night the high temperatures, which rose to 64 to 67 degrees Celsius underground, made rescue efforts almost impossible.
"Breathing is difficult due to ventilation pipes being damaged by the flames, and communication lines have also been compromised," said the union.
"Amcu sends heartfelt condolences to the loved ones and colleagues of the five fallen mineworkers. The AMCU leadership is currently at the mine, praying that the situation will change for the good and that the remaining worker can be evacuated alive."
Palabora Mining has confirmed that two employees were found, and had unfortunately died. The rescue operation continues for the remaining employees.— Dept Minerals RSA (@DMR_SA) July 15, 2018
Five employees have now been confirmed dead at Palabora Mining. The search for one employee continues. An investigation will commence once the last remaining employee is found, & the fire underground has been contained and the area declared safe.— Dept Minerals RSA (@DMR_SA) July 15, 2018
The Department extends its condolences to the families of the deceased.— Dept Minerals RSA (@DMR_SA) July 15, 2018
Health and safety must remain a priority and employers and employees are urged to remain vigilant at all times, and observe the necessary safety protocols to ensure the goal of zero harm is realised.— Dept Minerals RSA (@DMR_SA) July 15, 2018
- Editor&39;s note: This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.