A seventh illegal miner was rescued from a disused gold mine near Welkom on Wednesday, Free State police said.

Colonel Sam Makhele said he was pulled from the disused Harmony Gold mine just before noon.

Makhele said the police and rescue personnel were only focusing on getting trapped “zama-zamas”, as illegal miners are called in the industry, out of the mine. There was no indication of possible casualties yet.

Rescuers were confident earlier they would be able to save more people during the course of the day. At least 21 were still believed to be underground.

Two illegal miners raised the alarm on Tuesday, saying fellow miners were trapped underground following a rockfall in the early hours.

Police said they told authorities they were digging for gold in the disused Harmony mine when parts of it began to cave in.

The company had sealed the mine but illegal miners, many of them from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho, had burrowed in under illegal organised supervision.

In a similar event at Kleinzee in the Northern Cape rescuers were still trying to reach 16 men trapped underground in an illegal diamond mine. Northern Cape police spokeswoman Captain Cherelle Ehlers said rescuers did not know how many of the men were still alive. – Sapa