By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) - Police on Friday recovered two more bodies of illegal miners from a disused gold mine in South Africa’s central province, bringing the death toll to 31.
A gas explosion occurred at the abandoned Eland shaft near the town of Welkom in Free State province last Thursday, killing many illegal miners and trapping several others.
“Our search and rescue operations are still continuing. So far we have retrieved 31 bodies and arrested 27 illegal miners,” provincial police spokesman Maj. Gen. Lerato Molale told Anadolu Agency Friday.
He said 27 illegal miners came out of the disused mine and surrendered to the police. “We are currently using their information to search for others,” Molale said.
He said those arrested will be charged with engaging in illegal activities and being in the country illegally.
Most illegal miners in South Africa come from neighboring countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho among others.
It is illegal in South Africa to mine without a government license or to enter an abandoned mine shaft.
There are many disused mine shafts scattered across South Africa. Major companies used to mine there before abandoning the shafts after gold deposits reduced.
The abandoned mines have now attracted hundreds of illegal miners who risk their lives daily to extract remaining scraps of gold.