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Dept defends decision to suspend rescue operations at Langlaagte mine

The Department of Mineral Resources says the decision was made in consultation with all parties.

FILE: Community members gathered near the Langlaagte site where illegal miners were trapped underground on 12 September 2016. Picture: Masa Kekana/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Mineral Resources says its decision to suspend the rescue operation at the Langlaagte mine was guided by consultations it had with illegal miners who had assisted with the search for a group of missing men.

On Monday, two teams of specialists and so-called zama zamas went underground to assess whether it was safe to continue the search; one body was found on that day while another miner was brought to the surface in a critical condition.

Yesterday, volunteers resumed their search after authorities suspended the operation and discovered two more bodies underground.

WATCH: Zama zamas emerge after rescue called off at Langlaagte mine

The department's Martin Madlala says the volunteers who discovered the two bodies yesterday may have been working with information that authorities were not given.

Madlala says the decision to call off the search was made in consultation with illegal miners, police and rescue officials.

"There also the multiplicity of groups that may be operating on that area, so to treat illegal miners as though it's one company, is also difficult."

The department says it's unfortunate that Minister Mosebenzi Zwane has been accused of not engaging with the community and families and it believes the claims are baseless.

On Monday, Zwane visited the site where rescue operations resumed following initial dangers about deadly carbon monoxide being discharged.

Madlala said, "We find those claims unfortunate and we believe they are not being based on facts. We engaged thoroughly with those people who were willing to provide information and all the leads provided to the police."