Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM – 08 June 2009 – Harmony Gold Mining Company – the third-largest gold producer in South Africa – has suspended 122 workers on suspicion of helping miners at a disused mine where a fire killed at least 76 people last week.
“Harmony suspended 77 workers and 45 contractors at its operations in the central Free State province, claiming that they had helped illegal miners underground with supplies, or accepted bribes for access to mining properties,” according to the SAPA news agency.
At least 76 miners were killed by the fire which raged for days at a disused Harmony mine. SAPA said Harmony spokeswoman Marian van der Walt had confirmed that no more bodies had been found underground.
South Africa – rated internationally as the third-biggest gold producer – has the deepest gold shafts. The miners died at Eland shaft near the town of Welkom, in a part of the mine that runs to depths of up to 1.4 km.
Harmony is particularly exposed to plundering by illegal miners as it was built on a strategy of buying old gold shafts and mines which soon ran out of commercially viable amounts of gold and were abandoned.