“We sent rescue teams down, accounted for all the people and obviously are trying to get them out of there as soon as possible,” James Wellsted, spokesman for the Sibanye-Stillwater mining company, told ENCA television.
The company said a storm knocked out power on Wednesday night, preventing evening shift workers from exiting the mine.
The National Union of Mineworkers said 65 mineworkers had been rescued but about 1000 remained underground.
“There is no electricity there, so they are using a generator to power the cage to take workers to the surface,” NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu told Reuters. “The problem is they are rescuing one mineworker at a time. It is very slow. It is worrying. Some of our members have chronic conditions and they don’t have medication down there.”
In 2005, Tasmania’s Beaconsfield gold mine collapsed. While 14 workers managed to escape, Larry Knight died in the initial rockfall and Brant Webb and Todd Russell were trapped underground for two weeks before being rescued.
Harmony Gold brought 3200 workers to surface at its Elandsrand gold mine in 2007, after a shaft was damaged.
In August 2010, 33 miners were trapped at a gold mine in Chile for a record 69 days, 700 metres below the ground before being rescued.