Eight bodies recovered at South Africa mine, one miner still missing

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African rescuers have recovered eight bodies after a fire and rock fall at Harmony Gold's Doornkop mine near Johannesburg and one other miner remained missing, the government said on Thursday.

The incident is the most serious accident in South Africa's mines since nine workers died in a rock fall at a platinum mine in July 2009.

"The situation is deeply regrettable," Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu said in a statement. "We must ensure that we do all we can to get to the bottom of what caused this incident in order to prevent similar occurrences in future."

Harmony said the search continues for the ninth employee.

Rescue teams worked through smoke and debris nearly a mile underground to reach eight other miners released on Wednesday.

Those miners, who were all unharmed, had fled to a refuge bay equipped with a telephone and other survival gear.

The National Union of Mineworkers said the fire broke out on Tuesday evening after an earthquake damaged ventilation and water pipes as well as power cables.

South Africa's gold mines are the deepest in the world and were ranked as some of the most dangerous during the apartheid era.

Since the end of white-minority rule in 1994, the government, unions and companies have worked to improve safety, but 112 people were still killed in 2012, the last year for which records are available.