JOHANNESBURGFeb. 16 (UPI) --
South African emergency workers have rescued 11 illegal miners trapped underground in an abandoned gold mine shaft for at least two days. But officials believe that more than 200 more miners remain underground, refusing to come out for fear of arrest.
Werner Vermaak, of the ER24 emergency medical service, said full rescue operations would cease until the miners asked for help.
"They will be offered rescue should they decide to come out," he told BBC News. "But they will be arrested should they come to the surface again."
Police in the area alerted emergency crews after they heard shouts from the mine
, located 20 miles of Johannesburg, outside the city of Beloni.
South Africa's Department of Mineral Resources said Sunday that "the issue of illegal mining remains a serious concern to the department &we continue to work with law enforcement agencies in this regard."
"Illegal mining is a crime, and once all miners receive medical attention, they are arrested," the agency tweeted.
Emergency officials said initially that a rockslide closed the mine entrance, but the miners have told some rescuers that a rival group trapped them inside with boulders
[BBC News, Bloomberg Businessweek, CNN]
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