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Mine rescue operation halted

Rescue efforts for illegal miners trapped inside a Northern Cape mine has been temporarily put on hold.

Mine shaft. AFP

CAPE TOWN - Efforts to rescue several illegal miners trapped inside a Northern Cape mine has been temporarily put on hold.

It is understood a tunnel in the mine near Kleinzee collapsed on Tuesday morning, trapping 18 men.

Police said one man has been rescued and a body recovered.

Police spokesperson Cherelle Ehlers said two other bodies can be seen, but rescue teams were unable to retrieve them at this stage.

"The terrain there has become very unstable and the operation has been halted until that area can be stabilised."

Meanwhile, Free State rescue teams are still trying to reach several illegal miners trapped inside another mine near Welkom.

The police's Stephen Tekeng said it is understood more than two dozen miners were trying to dig gold from the abandoned mine when it collapsed.

"Around 26 people were trapped underground and nine were reported to have died. The rescue operation continues for now."

In March, 20 illegal miners were trapped at the Gravelotte gold mine on Gauteng's East Rand.

The men were mining illegally when a rock fell and trapped them underground.

The search for the miners was called off as the process was deemed too dangerous.

In a separate incident, three illegal miners were involved in an underground shooting in Eastvale.

Two men died and another was injured during the shooting.

It is believed the victims were shot at by other illegal miners attempting to rob them off their gold.