Illegal miners were trapped underground at Langlaagte, Johannesburg on Monday after a rescue operation was halted.
Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane explained the effort was stalled over safety concerns on Monday morning.
Earlier the same day a few illegal miners, or zama zamas, crept away while authorities attempted to rescue others still trapped in the disused mine.
The miners' ordeal began on Wednesday, when some of those who went underground did not return.
Sixteen zama zamas descended to help but only eight returned. On Sunday four miners were rescued from the mine.
On Monday relatives of some of the workers rescued and then taken into custody broke down in distress.
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