South African officials have cleared a mine shaft entrance allowing miners who had been trapped below the chance to escape. However many of the miners, who had been working illegally, refused rescue for fear of arrest.
Rescue workers on Sunday brought 11 miners safely to the surface and cleared the entrance to the abandoned gold-mine in Benoni, a suburb just east of Johannesburg.
However, the other trapped miners chose to stay underground out of fear they could be arrested for working illegally. After nightfall, rescue workers had packed up and left, leaving behind a ladder in the shaft for those still below.
Illegal mining is common in South Africa, where thousands regularly enter abandoned mines in search of precious ores. South Africa is a major producer of platinum and the world's fourth-biggest gold exporter.
The South African Press Association reported earlier that rescue teams were able to speak to about 30 miners near the top of the mine shaft who said as many as 200 others were trapped further down in the mine. They were believed to have been trapped since Saturday morning.
The official number of miners trapped has not been confirmed.
The South African news agency quoted emergency responder Werner Vermaak as saying none of the 30 miners in the smaller group appeared to be seriously injured.
"It's an abandoned mine shaft in the middle of the public veld (open fields) ... it was not a blocked-off area," he said.
hc/tj (Reuters, AP)