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Witnesses: All gold miners freed from South Africa mine

  • Story Highlights
  • The last of 3,200 gold miners trapped by a power failure freed late Thursday
  • Workers, trapped 1.3 miles underground, brought to surface in groups of 75
  • Falling pipe knocked out power to elevator that carries workers out of mine
  • No one was killed or injured in the incident, officials said.
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CARLETONVILLE, South Africa (CNN) -- The last of 3,200 gold miners trapped by a power failure reached the surface late Thursday after nearly two days underground, witnesses reported.

The workers were stuck 1.3 miles (2 kilometers ) underground in the cavernous Elandstrand New Mine after a large compressed air pipe fell down a shaft about 6 a.m. Wednesday (midnight Tuesday ET).

The accident knocked out power and disabled elevators in the mine, which is built like an underground city, complete with trains, trucks and cars.

No one was hurt during the ordeal.

"I'm happy now because we are out and we are alive," said Granny Makau, one of the freed miners and one of scores of women working at Elandstrand.

"No one died so we are happy," she said.

"This was a situation where the people were not really in danger, they were underground," said Graham Briggs, the president of Harmony Gold Mining Company, which oversees operations at the mine.

"It's not really an accident in the sense of an underground accident -- in the sense of a falling rock," Briggs said.

More than a thousand miners had surfaced by midmorning Thursday. Video Watch happy miners reach the surface »

Video footage at the mouth of the mine showed workers in hard hats and overalls exiting a small secondary shaft in groups of about 75. As each lift surfaced, paramedics were seen offering a sandwich, water and medical attention. Paramedics were earlier entering the mine and treating workers waiting to leave.

Lesiba Sheshoka, a spokesman for South Africa's National Union of Mineworkers, said he could not speak specifically about the conditions at the Elandstrand mine. But he pointed to what he called South Africa's generally poor mine safety record.

According to an official South African government Web site, 202 workers died in mine accidents in 2005, with another 3,961 suffering injuries.

"We're not proud of those statistics at all," Briggs said. "At Harmony, we have improved over the last three years but we need to keep working at it and keep improving it."

In the past decade, mine safety across South Africa has shown improvement.

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According to the government's Web site, the 2005 safety numbers were an improvement from 1995, when 533 miners died and 7,000 were injured.

The government pledges further improvements to reduce those numbers. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Robyn Curnow contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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