Eleven illegal miners are feared to have been trapped in a disused mine shaft while they were searching for gold remains in Mpumalanga.
A man who was arrested when he emerged from the shaft in Barberton on Sunday evening told police that 11 others were still inside the mine.
Superintendent Leah Banda of the Barberton police said a search for the 11 miners was launched on Sunday but by late yesterday no one had been found.
Banda said illegal mining was a problem in the area and she warned that it was dangerous for people to enter abandoned mine shafts.
"Some incidents of death and injury involving illegal miners are not reported to the police for fear of arrest," she said.
The arrested illegal miner told police that he and his companions had entered the mine shaft on Thursday but that when they tried to come out on Sunday the rope they were using tore and they fell down the hole.
Police suspect that the men might have fled back to the mine hole when they saw mine security guards waiting outside for them.
Last month a search for the body of Alfred Dliwako, a Zimbabwean illegal miner, was called off after it became too costly to continue.
Dliwako is believed to have died in the 120m mine shaft while searching for gold remains.