Mpumalanga police recovered four more bodies of illegal miners.
The bodies were recovered on Saturday from New Consort Mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga.
Police believe that rich people are involved in illegal mining but only the poor who do the dirty job get arrested or die underground. This is what Barberton's Superintendent Ntombi Banda told Sowetan as the death toll in illegal mining climbed to 20.
"Wealthy people hire the poor to illegally mine gold in the disused mines of Barberton and pay them a pittance if they succeed. The problem of illegal mining in the area won't go away any time soon because the wrong people get arrested," Banda said.
Three people were found alive and taken to Barberton Hospital.
Police said the illegal miners died after they inhaled poisonous gases in the disused mine shafts.
An investigation as to how the gases got into mine was under way.
The dead miners, who have yet to be identified, include a 14-year-old boy.
Anyone who may know the dead people is asked to visit the Barberton mortuary to help identify them.