Bloemfontein - Efforts to rescue 15 illegal miners at the Bontekou Mine, near Kleinzee, were expected to continue on Wednesday afternoon, said Northern Cape police.

Captain Cherelle Ehlers said the rescue stopped earlier in the day when the site became unstable with loose gravel falling into the tunnel and posing a danger to rescue workers.

Mine engineers had since completed an analysis of the site.

One of the illegal diggers was rescued, but sustained minor injuries. He was also treated for shock at a hospital in Springbok.

Ehlers said another digger's body was recovered, and police could see two more bodies, but that the unstable conditions had prevented workers from retrieving them.

She said it had been decided that a ditch would be dug alongside the tunnel from which rescue workers would try to reach the trapped diggers.

Police from Kommagas, Kleinzee, and Port Nolloth, and search and rescue teams from Upington and Kimberley, the De Beers Mine and officials from Nama Khoi disaster management and rescue services were involved in the rescue effort.

Police received a report that tunnels at the mine collapsed on Tuesday at 3pm. The tunnels were closed by the mine in April. Eleven illegal diggers reportedly managed to escape and alerted police.

The collapsed hole was about six metres deep and led to several tunnels and an underground waiting area. - Sapa