Over 2,000 of some 3,200 miners trapped about 2,200 meters underground at a South African gold mine since Wednesday have been rescued, gold mining company Harmony Gold said on Thursday.
By 12:50 p.m. local time (1050 GMT), 2,000 miners had been brought to surface at Elandsrand mine near Carletonville, about 110 km west to Johannesburg, the company's spokeswoman Amelia Soares said, adding that the rescue work was being conducted " smoothly".
"The rescue operation will be completed by 3 p.m. (1300 GMT)," she told Xinhua over the telephone.
The gold miners were trapped underground on Wednesday morning when a pipe fell into the lift shaft and cut off the power supply to the lift normally used to hoist them out of the mine.
The company, the world's fifth largest gold producer, started the rescue operation early on Thursday, using an auxiliary mine lift to bring miners to surface.
The rescued workers are in good health, though naturally they are a bit tired, Soares said, adding that the workers also stated that their colleagues underground are calm and waiting patiently to surface.
"The mine is being well ventilated and the remaining mine workers have access to water and medical supplies. A team of paramedics was sent down immediately after the first workers were brought to surface," she said.
Meanwhile, Harmony Gold denied trade union's accusation that there had been negligence to safety rules at Elandsrand mine.
"Negligence allegations are untrue. According to mine safety allegations the mine shafts have to be inspected once a week, we have complied with the regulations. The last shaft inspection was on Saturday -- it is unfortunate that this has happened," Harmony spokeswoman Lizelle du Toit was quoted as saying by the SAPA news agency.
This followed allegations by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) that the mine was being neglected.
"We are calling on the department (of minerals and energy) to inspect the mine and to take proper action to ensure that safety requirements are followed. If the department does not do so, we may have to take industrial action," NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka was quoted as saying.
Du Toit said that an investigation would be launched into the matter.
During her visit to the mine on Thursday morning, South Africa's Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said that Health and Safety legislation would be "tightened up" to try to prevent mining accidents.
South Africa is the world's largest producer of gold as well as a number of other minerals. The country's Mine Health and Safety Council reported in September that 199 mineworkers died in accidents, mostly in rock falls, last year.