Mineral resources Gwede Mantashe on Friday called for security at mines to be enhanced in order to effectively address illegal mining.
This comes after Mantashe visited the Koornfontein Gloria coal mine in Middleburg to get a progress report on rescue efforts for 22 people believed to be trapped underground.
At least 13 people are known to be dead so far after the group, believed to be cable thieves, were trapped underground last week following a gas explosion at the mine.
Cable and copper theft resulted in power to the mine being stopped, increasing the level of poisonous gases underground.
Seven bodies were discovered in the early hours of Thursday morning, and they would be retrieved once power and ventilation were restored and the flammable gases underground were brought down to more manageable levels.
In a statement, Mantashe said the priority remained to restore ventilation to Gloria mine and reduce flammable gases underground so the search and recovery process could continue with the necessary speed.
“The work to retrieve the bodies found at Gloria mine is quite complex but it must be allowed to continue so that there can be closure on this matter,” Mantashe said.
“The business rescue for Optimum, Koornfontein, and the other operations must also continue at a faster pace than is currently unfolding, so the mine can get back to operation and get the local economy going again.”
Mantashe said the proto teams continue to assess the gas levels underground, and work was expected to continue on Saturday morning.
The Gloria mine is part of the Optimum Coal assets which were owned by the controversial Gupta family. The Gupta mine assets were put into business rescue last year, including the Gloria mine.
The mine has been closed since September and hundreds of miners have not been paid their salaries since October. Since then, the mine has grappled with an increase in cable theft.
– African News Agency