JOHANNESBURG: Five more bodies of illegal miners have been discovered at a disused South African gold mine, bringing to 11 the total of dead diggers found this week, emergency workers said Thursday.
The decomposing bodies were recovered near a mine west of Johannesburg, at the same spot where five others were picked up on Tuesday, said Robert Mulaudzi, the spokesman for the Johannesburg Emergency Management Services.
"The bodies were already decomposing, making it hard to see if they had any visible injuries," said Mulaudzi.
Mulaudzi said they suspect that the bodies were brought to the surface by fellow illegal miners.
"It appears as if they might have died at least two days ago."
He said after the discovery, emergency workers tried to send teams underground, but the search was abandoned because of dangerous conditions.
The owners of the mine could not be immediately verified.
Last week, dozens of trapped diggers were rescued from a mine east of Johannesburg, after their colleagues raised the alarm.
The rescued men were arrested and charged with illegal mining, many of them were undocumented immigrants from neighbouring countries.
Much of the area around Johannesburg is pockmarked with old shafts, a testament to the city's century-old history of gold mining.
While many are no longer commercially viable, they still contain enough deposits to attract scores of the city's unemployed, and those from much farther afield.
Accidents are commonplace at disused mines where poorly equipped workers often spend weeks undergrounds, digging for gold to sell on the black market.
In 2009, 82 illegal diggers died in a disused gold mine shaft when a fire broke out underground. (AFP)