Illegal mining continues unabated in South Africa amid reports of more deaths as a result, authorities confirmed on Monday.
Its latest victims include three miners who died in a shaft in Kingsway in Springs, about 30 km east of Johannesburg, police said.
They were killed by rival illegal miners on Sunday, police spokesman Vincent Leshabane said.
More than 10 other miners were rescued after being trapped underground for three nights by a gang of rival illegal miners. They were allegedly held hostage at gunpoint, shot, beaten and pushed down steep shafts.
As an investigation went on, the death toll could rise, said Leshabane.
"We are serious about conducting a full investigation. We want to get to the root of the issue. People can't continue with illegal mining as it puts their lives in danger."
The latest incident highlights the severity of illegal mining in the country.
A 2010 study shows that 6 billion rands (about 600 million U. S. dollars) was being lost to illegal mining annually.
The loss could be more today, Minister of Mineral Resources Suan Shabang said, while conducting a site inspection at a mine dump site in Roodeport near Johannesburg earlier this month.
Illegal mining usually takes place in mine dump sites which are claimed by the state and used for other projects like the construction of low-cost housing.
Illegal mining not only "robs the country" but also leads to the degradation of land and increase crime," the minister said.
In Gauteng Province alone, illegal mining contributes to about 10 percent of crimes.
There have been reports of illegal miners being killed while drilling rocks underground.
In a single accident in May last year, nearly 20 illegal miners were killed when a disused tunnel collapsed near Kleinzee in the Northern Cape province.
Illegal miners have long exploited abandoned gold mines in South Africa and often stay underground -- unnoticed -- in extremely dangerous circumstances for months at a time.