Home » SAPS Investigates Deaths of Four SANDF Soldiers in Orkney Mine

SAPS Investigates Deaths of Four SANDF Soldiers in Orkney Mine

Soldiers Found Dead in Guardhouse, Carbon Monoxide Suspected

by Adenike Adeodun

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is investigating the deaths of four South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers. These soldiers were found dead at an Orkney mine shaft in the North West province. The soldiers were part of Operation Vala Umgodi, aimed at curbing illegal mining.

The SANDF reported that the deceased were discovered in a container used as a guardhouse on July 6, 2024. The next shift found the bodies when they opened the container doors. The SANDF stated, “SAPS was called in, and upon inspection, all four had died with their rifles and personal items still with them.”

The district surgeon confirmed no visible injuries on the bodies. A team from the Chemistry Unit of the Pretoria Forensic Science Laboratory attended the scene. Preliminary indications suggest the soldiers died from carbon monoxide poisoning, possibly due to a fire kindled inside the container on a cold night. The bodies have been taken to the Klerksdorp State Mortuary for thorough investigation and post-mortem examination.

The soldiers were stationed at a dormant mining shaft, Shaft 3, near the disused Harry Oppenheimer Stadium, a known hotspot for illegal mining. The names of the deceased will be released after their families are informed and necessary formalities are completed. Funeral arrangements will be announced later.

The Defence Minister, both Deputy Defence Ministers, the acting Defence Secretary, and the Chief of the SANDF have sent their condolences to the families and colleagues of the deceased. This tragic incident underscores the risks faced by soldiers combating illegal mining activities in South Africa.

The SANDF soldiers were part of a broader operation aimed at securing dormant mine shafts and preventing illegal mining activities. This operation, known as Operation Vala Umgodi, has been critical in addressing the dangers posed by illegal mining, including environmental damage and the threat to lawful mining operations.

On the morning of July 6, the incoming shift found the soldiers unresponsive in their guardhouse container. Initial inspections revealed no signs of struggle or external injuries, suggesting the cause of death was not violent. The presence of rifles and personal items indicated no theft or foul play.

The Chemistry Unit’s preliminary analysis pointed to carbon monoxide poisoning as the likely cause of death. This theory is based on the possibility of a fire started inside the container for warmth. Carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas, can be deadly in enclosed spaces without proper ventilation.

The incident has highlighted the ongoing challenges faced by authorities in combating illegal mining. The Harry Oppenheimer Stadium area, where the soldiers were stationed, has long been a focal point for illegal mining activities. These activities pose significant risks to both the environment and the safety of those involved, including law enforcement and military personnel.

The deaths of these soldiers underscore the dangerous conditions under which they operate. Illegal miners often use hazardous methods to extract minerals, leading to unstable ground conditions and the potential for deadly accidents. The use of makeshift shelters, such as the container where the soldiers were found, can also lead to life-threatening situations, especially in extreme weather conditions.

In the wake of this tragedy, the SANDF and SAPS are likely to review their current strategies and safety protocols for Operation Vala Umgodi. Ensuring the safety of personnel involved in these operations is paramount. This may include better training for recognizing and mitigating environmental hazards like carbon monoxide poisoning and improving the living conditions for soldiers stationed at remote and dangerous sites.

The Defence Ministry has expressed its commitment to supporting the families of the deceased and ensuring that such incidents are thoroughly investigated to prevent future occurrences. The collaboration between SANDF and SAPS will be crucial in addressing the complex issue of illegal mining and safeguarding the lives of those who work to protect South Africa’s resources.

As the investigation continues, the nation mourns the loss of four dedicated soldiers. Their sacrifice highlights the broader struggle against illegal mining and the need for continued vigilance and improved safety measures.



Source: Mining Weekly

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