A team of experts are expected to carry out a rescue operation on Thursday morning at the Gloria coal mine in Middelburg where more than 20 people are believed to be trapped underground.

Mining experts arrived on Wednesday to assess the situation.

The illegal miners reportedly went underground on Sunday, allegedly stealing copper cables at the unused mine. It is suspected that there was a gas explosion underground. Locals managed to rescue two people on Wednesday, one had already died.

The community of Lindokuhle believe that if the Gloria coal mine was still operational, people would not have been trapped underground.

The Gloria mine is currently under business rescue after failing to pay its workers last year.

A resident, Amanda Modadane, has called for the government to intervene.

“I believe that if this mine was operational, this would not have happened because employees would have been working unlike now the criminals are taking the opportunity to try and break the mine. Going forward, we would like to see the government taking control of the situation.”