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At least 900 gold miners who were trapped in a South African mine for more than 24 hours after a power outage were safely evacuated on Friday morning.
The Sibanye-Stillwater company, which manages the Beatrix mine in Free State province, said the miners will have medical tests and counselling and that it expects the mine to start operating again Monday.
Mine unions and others, however, are expressing concern that there was no functioning back-up plan for evacuation after a storm knocked out power Wednesday night and say the incident reflects continuing safety problems in South Africa’s mines.
The mining company said a massive power outage caused by a storm had prevented lifts from bringing the night shift to the surface at the mine near the city of Welkom.
Company managers and unions say food and water was delivered to the trapped miners while they awaited the restoration of power, which enabled elevators to ferry them to the top.
James Wellsted, spokesman for Sibanye-Stillwater, said the mine has 23 levels, going down to about 1,000m (3,280ft) below ground.
One cable was restored on Thursday and 272 workers were rescued, but 955 remained trapped by early evening, the company said.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) called on mineworkers to refuse to work in “dangerous conditions”.
“Major multinational corporations like Sibanye-Stillwater which should be industry leaders in creating a safety culture are doing far too little to prevent accidents,” the union said in a statement.
Last August five mineworkers died after sections of a gold mine collapsed outside Johannesburg.
South Africa possesses rich mineral reserves and has some of the world’s deepest gold mines.
Gold was for many decades the backbone of South Africa’s economy, but production has declined sharply due to depletion of reserves.
Associated Press and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report