A tragic incident in the Angelo settlement of Boksburg, South Africa has claimed the lives of at least 16 people, including three children. The victims were killed by a leak of toxic nitrate gas, which was being used by illegal miners to process gold in the settlement’s closely packed metal shacks. The incident highlights the dangers of illegal mining and the dire living conditions in informal settlements.
The settlement is located in Boksburg, a city on the eastern outskirts of Johannesburg. Initially, emergency services estimated the death toll could be as high as 24, but after a thorough examination, the number was revised to 16. Premier Panyaza Lesufi of Gauteng Province, who visited the scene, described the situation as “painful, emotionally draining, and tragic.”
Illegal mining is a prevalent issue in the gold-rich areas surrounding Johannesburg. Miners venture into closed-off and disused mines in search of remaining deposits. These miners, often migrants from neighboring countries, operate in organized gangs and are frequently blamed for bringing crime into the neighborhoods. The incident in the Angelo settlement is likely to fuel further anger towards illegal miners.
The bodies of the victims remained on the ground for several hours as emergency services awaited the arrival of forensic investigators and pathologists. The leak occurred from a gas cylinder stored in one of the shacks, which had been emptied out completely. The area surrounding the cylinder was thoroughly examined for additional casualties. The investigation took place in the narrow alleys between the shacks, which were cast into darkness due to the lack of streetlights, a common situation in impoverished informal settlements.
Illegal mining fatalities are not uncommon in South Africa, and the government has recently reported that at least 31 illegal miners are believed to have died in a gas explosion in a disused mine in the city of Welkom. Methane gas was identified as the cause of the explosion. The incident in the Angelo settlement serves as a stark reminder of the dangers faced by illegal miners and the urgent need for better regulation and safety measures in the mining industry.