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More than 200 illegal gold miners trapped underground

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More than 200 illegal miners are believed to be trapped underground following a rockfall at a South African gold mine.

They are believed to be trapped inside of one of Gold One’s abandoned shafts, the New Kleinfontein 6" ventilation shaft, located near Johannesburg. 

The incident occurred over the weekend, following a heavy period of rain, which is understood to have been the trigger for the shaft’s collapse and subsequent rockfall.

"The illegal miners have dug a tunnel right next to it to access the shaft and it has collapsed behind them," Gold One spokesman Grant Stuart explained.

Emergency crews reacted quickly, and managed to remove a large concrete slab which had trapped the miners, which some reports state was added to the rubble by a group of rival illegal miners, according to Sky News.

To date 12 illegal miners have been rescued, and were immediately arrested by police.

Following the arrest the remaining miners refused to come out, according to the ABC.

Once the 12 miners have been brought to surface and the others got word or wind that they got arrested and cleared medically, they actually refused to be rescued," he said.

"So, some of them did not want to be rescued by the mine rescue workers and rather decided to stay back.

"It's too dangerous to go down."

While response crews have not managed to coax the miners out of the shaft, they have been able to pass water and food through the miners.

Over the weekend a similar incident occurred in Colombia, where around 15 illegal miners were trapped, and 31 people injured, following a pit wall collapse, according to SBS.

Heavy rains weakened the integrity of the open cut mine.

Illegal mining is a major problem in Africa, particularly in South Africa and Ghana.

In 2012 South Africa created a task force to seal access points to abandoned mines to cut the growth of illegal mining in the country.

It came after three illegal miners were killed and another 18 trapped underground after a tunnel collapsed at a closed diamond mine, which former owner De Beers was selling to Trans Hex.

In May that year another 27 illegal miners had to be rescued after the shaft they were working collapsed, whilst in August that year sixty illegal miners died in the Congo after landslide caused by a shaft collapse buried them all.

Last year 17 miners were killed when an abandoned mine shaft collapsed in central Ghana.

In 2010 In 2010 heavy rains in the south of the country caused the clandestine mine to cave in killing 32 people.

There was also another mining accident in 2009 where 18 people, including 14 women, were killed in one of the country’s mines.

A similar number died in a cave-in in April 2007 at a mine west of the capital Accra.

Illegal mining has previously been estimated to cost the South Africa around 5 billion Rand ($612 million).

In South America illegal gold mining is growing as the next major threat to Colombia's security after its crackdown on the drug trade has forced criminals to look for new opportunities.

According to Colombian mines and energy minister Mauricio Cardenas, it is more of a problem than cocaine as gold can be more easily sold.

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