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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's Harmony Gold Mining Company said on Sunday that all 486 miners who were trapped underground following a fire had been rescued. The blaze occurred about 1.43 miles underground during maintenance on an air cooler at the Kusasalethu mine, a deep level operation west of Johannesburg that is Harmony's single largest gold producer.
The fire started at about 10 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET) and initially some 200 miners were unaccounted for. All operations other than essential services at the mine had been suspended, the company said. "All 486 employees have been brought to the surface safely," company spokeswoman Charmane Russell said. "This is a credit to employees, unions, company and the efforts of the mine rescue services."
South Africa's gold mines are the deepest in the world and were ranked as some of the most dangerous during the apartheid era. The industry recorded over 100 deaths per year before 2013, according to the mines ministry.