Rescue workers in South Africa say they have saved miners trapped in an abandoned gold mineshaft east of Johannesburg and that while there had been reports of as many 200 trapped miners, nobody remained underground.
Werner Vermaak, an emergency services spokesperson, told Al Jazeera on Sunday that rescue operations had ceased on the site. A darkness fell, the scene had been handed over to mine security.
Those brought to the surface were checked by medics and then taken into custody by police who accused them of mining illegally. Some of the miners were dehydrated but otherwise in good spirits, emergency responder Kobus Du Plooy said.
There were no reports of injuries or deaths.
Initial reports said that more than 200 miners were trapped further down a steep tunnel, but Vermaak said that he could not confirm it.
Earlier, Vermaak had told Reuters that 12 people had been arrested and an unknown number of miners remained underground because they feared arrest. The Associated Press quoted Du Plooy as saying late Sunday that at least 11 miners were escorted to safety at the mine but an undetermined number of their comrades were still in the gold mine.
Police were preparing to question those who came out about anyone left underground, local media reported.
The rescue operation began on Sunday when shouts from the trapped miners alerted a police patrol in the semi-rural Johannesburg suburb of Benoni, where gold has been mined for decades.
A crane was used to shift a large concrete slab that was obstructing the shaft belonging to the Chinese-owned bullion producer Gold One, which has prospecting rights to the site but is not currently mining it.
Illegal mining of abandoned shafts is common in South Africa, where informal miners excavate ore to sell, often living underground in dangerous and precarious conditions. Fatal accidents are common, and underground battles between rival groups have also been reported.
Tens of thousands of mine workers have been on strike since Jan. 23 at the country's platinum mines to demand higher wages and better working conditions from employers. Protests have turned more violent since a strike in 2012 crippled the mining industry for more than two months. In August of that year, police shot and killed 46 workers at a mine owned by Platinum- producer Lonmin. The strikes then spread to coal, diamond, chrome and iron mines.
Gold One spokesman Grant Stuart said the miners had been trapped in the "New Kleinfontein 6" ventilation shaft.
"The illegal miners have dug a tunnel right next to it to access the shaft and it has collapsed behind them," he said, adding that heavy rain may have triggered the collapse.
Gold One delisted last month from the Johannesburg and Australian stock markets after all of its share capital was acquired by BCX Gold Investment Holdings, a Chinese consortium.
Al Jazeera and wire services