Search for 20 miners called off
Johannesburg - The search for at least 20 illegal miners at the closed Gravelotte gold mine on the East Rand was called off on Friday, said trade union Solidarity.
"All recovery work was called off and the mine tunnel will be sealed soon," said deputy general secretary Gideon du Plessis in a statement.
He said the rescue team had said only one body could be recovered because the area was unstable.
On Thursday, an illegal miner was rescued and claimed there was a rock the size of a house pinning down others underground, Lieutenant Colonel Tshisikhawe Ndou said at the time.
A group of men were apparently mining illegally when there was a fall of rock and they were trapped.
Gideon said rescuers later found a group of men still mining illegally in the vicinity.
"These men confirmed that at least 20 of their comrades had died in the rockfall," he said.
The rescuers tried to convince the men to leave the area because the mine would be sealed off and they risked being trapped.
Four escaped with R310 worth of gold concentrate and five agreed to leave the mine on condition that they would not be prosecuted. The other 28 illegal miners refused to leave.
Grootvlei mine is owned by President Jacob Zuma's nephew Khulubuse Zuma and former president Nelson Mandela's grandson Zondwa Mandela.
The Gravelotte mine is near Grootvlei, where former Big Brother contestant Brad Wood and four others allegedly shot dead four apparently illegal miners at the embattled Aurora Empowerment Systems mine last year.
Wood, who was head of security at Aurora's Grootvlei Mine, and co-accused site manager Nicholas Pretorius, Herbie Trouw, Willem Coetzer and Mickey Mazaan, were found not guilty of murder and attempted murder following the killing, near Springs, in August.
On Thursday, Du Plessis said the liquidators of Pamodzi Gold should expedite the process of selling the assets of the Grootvlei mines to put an end to illegal mining.
"Until the assets were finally sold off, no one was going to take full responsibility to stop illegal mining activities at the mines," he said.