Gloria coal mine in Mpumalanga where a gas explosion occurred which led to six deaths on 7 February 2019. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG – The Gloria Coal Mine says rescue and recovery efforts are only expected to resume next week when its safe for teams to go underground.

Six people died on Wednesday during an explosion underground while a group of suspected criminals were allegedly stealing copper cables at a shaft at the abandoned mine.

The company was placed under business rescue last year leaving it up to private security guards to patrol the area.

The group entered the shaft on Sunday but 22 people are still unaccounted for.

Mike Elliott who represents the business rescue practitioners said the men are believed to be part of a copper cable syndicate.

He said: “These guys are absolute professionals; they have been doing this for years. They know exactly what to do and they have all the equipment. When we tried to approach them, they shot at our security and the police until the police had to run away.”

EWN