Johannesburg - A miner was rescued from a collapsed tunnel at a diamond mine near Kleinzee on Tuesday, Northern Cape police said.

“The person is being treated for shock and minor injuries,” said Captain Cherelle Ehlers.

Police were unable to provide further information.

In a statement, De Beers and Namaqualand Mines management said the survivor was taken to hospital and the search was continuing for six more people trapped.

Earlier, Ehlers said 19 illegal miners were trapped underground. Their condition was unknown.

A disused tunnel in the mine collapsed, trapping the men who had been illegally digging for diamonds. Eleven escaped and alerted the police that there were people underground.

The mine closed the tunnels in April.

It is thought the tunnel collapsed at about 3am on Tuesday. The area that caved in was about six metres deep and led to several tunnels and an underground waiting area. Three of the 11 who escaped were admitted to a hospital in Springbok.

Ehlers said loose gravel was hindering rescue efforts.

Police and rescue teams from Kommagas, Kleinzee, Port Nolloth, Upington, and Kimberley, and rescuers from the De Beers mine and the Nama Khoi disaster management were are at the scene.

De Beers said it was shocked at the accident.

“The rescue team is still carefully excavating the collapsed tunnels to investigate whether more people are trapped,” it said.

“The company remains deeply concerned that people are illegally digging and thereby endangering themselves.”

It said groups of people were knowingly entering mine property, destroying fences, ignoring signage, evading arrest, transporting mining equipment and undertaking the dangerous excavation of tunnels which had proved to be unsafe.

“The mine has requested trespassers and illegal diggers to leave the mine and the authorities have apprehended trespassers and illegal diggers,” it said. - Sapa