Tragedy Strikes: Retrieval Efforts Hindered by Dangerous Gas Levels in Abandoned Mine

…By Judah Olanisebee for TDPel Media. Tragedy in an Old Mine: Efforts to Recover Bodies Hindered by Dangerous Gas Levels


The Lesotho government has informed South Africa about a distressing incident involving the deaths of at least 31 Basotho nationals in an abandoned mine in the Free State.

The incident is believed to have occurred on May 18, 2023, in ventilation shaft 5 of the Virginia Mine in Welkom.

Gas Levels Pose Challenges to Recovery Efforts:


Efforts to recover the bodies of the miners have been impeded by the presence of hazardous gas levels within the shaft.

Inspectors from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) discovered these dangerous gas levels, making it too risky to dispatch a search team to the shaft.

The mine, previously owned by Harmony, ceased operations in the 1990s.

Seeking Alternative Solutions:

Despite the challenges posed by the high methane levels, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, in collaboration with Harmony, is actively exploring alternative options to recover the bodies and address the situation promptly.


However, the sporadic nature of available information regarding this tragic incident has made the recovery efforts complex.

Retrieving Bodies by Other Means:

While the official recovery efforts face obstacles, several bodies have already been retrieved by other illegal miners.

The department recognizes the uniqueness and complexity of the situation but is committed to working with all relevant stakeholders to ensure the safe retrieval of the suspected deceased illegal miners.



The Lesotho government and South African authorities, along with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, are facing a challenging task in recovering the bodies of the miners due to dangerous gas levels in the old mine.

However, they remain determined to explore every possible avenue to bring closure to this tragic incident.

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