AIR AND WATER
Rescuers were in contact with the trapped miners and clean air and water were being pumped down to them, Briggs said. "It's a very serious incident, but it's under control," he added. They were using a smaller lift close to the main elevator.
South African gold mines are the deepest in the world and unions have often criticized companies for not doing enough to ensure workers' safety.
Gold mine operations have come under scrutiny over the past few months following a series of accidents as gold producers mine ever deeper to offset lower production and reap the benefits of a sharply higher bullion price.
Gold output in South Africa, the world's biggest gold producer, has tumbled by over 50 percent over the past decade, as high-grade mines run out of ore and firms grapple with more difficult and high-cost underground operations.
The government briefly closed an AngloGold Ashanti mine in July after two miners were killed in a rock fall.
Harmony bought the Elandsrand mine and nearby Deelkraal operations from rival AngloGold Ashanti in 2001. At the time production was declining and Harmony saw potential in digging a new mine underneath the old one.
Harmony, which employs around 44,000 people and produced 2.4 million ounces of gold in 2006, expects to complete the new Elandsrand mine by 2011 and to mine it for a further 18 years.