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At least 30 South African miners are trapped in an abandoned underground mine, Reuters and Huffington Post report. The disaster sheds light on the practice of illegal mining. Many times, when mining companies abandon mines, illegal miners will go in and dig up ore and sell it for a profit. There are frequently conflicts between rival groups. Some even live there. Illegal mining is very common in South Africa. Initial news reports gave the number as 200, but now the figure has been moved down to 30.

This is the sort of worst-case scenario that happens whenever any kind of this project of this nature -- mining, fracking, drilling, large scale animal confinement operations -- is approved. What planners frequently do not take into consideration sufficiently is, if a project closes down, then who is going to clean up the mess? In many cases, the government points the finger at the company, the company points the finger at the government, and the company is frequently bankrupt or has changed hands.

This is why government regulation is appropriate when dealing with projects of this magnitude. Because of the massive scale and money involved, government regulation provides the enforcement, expertise, and know-how in order to keep operations running in a safe manner and provide an exit strategy for if and when such projects close. And the large companies that run these operations have the resources to comply with these regulations.

This sort of tragedy should never happen. Thankfully, updated news reports state that some of the miners have been pulled to safety. But when companies don't do their job in cleaning up the mess after their operations close, and when government doesn't do its job in regulating such operations, then there will be many more tragedies and possible losses of human life like this waiting to happen.

Edited to reflect updates to story.

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