A second group of 12 illegal miners rescued from a disused mine in Welkom will appear in the local magistrate's court on Friday, Free State police said.

Spokesman Captain Stephen Thakeng said the first group of 10 “zama-zamas”, as illegal miners are known in the industry, had appeared in court earlier this week.

They were charged with trespassing, attempted theft of gold-bearing material, and illegal immigration. Their case was postponed to May 31 for bail applications.

The second group of 12 would face the same charges. All the rescued miners are from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, or Lesotho. The Hawks in Welkom were handling the investigation.

Thakeng said the rescue operation was suspended after a camera was lowered into the ARM mine's disused number two shaft, where it was thought the bodies of nine illegal miners were. No bodies could however be seen.

He said this week’s operation in Welkom was regarded as the most successful rescue operation ever conducted in the goldfields.

“The mine rescue services was applauded for a job well done for successfully rescuing the 22 illegal miners in the ARM shaft.”

The decision to suspend the rescue operation was taken by mineral resources department officials, Harmony Mine management, and the police. – Sapa