Tanzanian miners freed after 41 days trapped underground

Five Tanzanian gold miners have been rescued from a collapsed shaft, after spending 41 days trapped underground, eating cockroaches and frogs to survive.

While 14 initially escaped as the shaft collapsed, six were trapped with one dead during the month-long period underground.

The incident in Tanzania is similar to the 2010 mine disaster in Chile, where 33 miners were trapped in a San Jose gold and copper mine 2,300 feet below the surface.

Five years ago, the families of the trapped miners, the people of Chile and the country’s government rallied behind a massive outpouring of global support to bring the 33 miners to the surface after nearly 70 days of being trapped underground.

According to Minister of Energy and Mines spokesperson Badra Masoud, the Tanzanian miners had been trapped some 100 metres underground while other miners heard voices coming from a nearby shaft .

“They heard voices of people calling out for help. The men left the mines as they thought the voices were evil spirits, but they reported it to the local officials, and they remembered the miners who had been trapped some days earlier.”

The local miners were digging for gold in the north-western Shinyanga region, some 900 kilometres west of the economic capital Dar es Salaam, when the shaft collapsed behind them.

In 2014, more than 200 illegal miners were trapped underground following a rockfall at a South African gold mine. At the time, South Africa had created a task force to seal access points to abandoned mines to cut the growth of illegal mining in the country.

It came after three illegal miners were killed and another 18 were trapped underground after a tunnel collapsed at a closed diamond mine.

Tanzania is Africa's fourth largest gold producer, and the precious metal is one of the top foreign exchange earners for the country.

Collapse of artisanal or small-scale independent, mines are frequent, with miners often using basic tools and with little serious ability to shore up and secure the deep and narrow shafts they dig.

Illegal mining continues to be serious problem in Africa, with many closed or disused miners accessed by these illegal miners and operated in unsafe conditions, during which they are often injured and are known to cause mine collapse.

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