19/05/2017 9:25 PM AEST | Updated 19/05/2017 9:25 PM AEST

Government, Mining Companies' Failures Caused 40 Miners' Deaths, Says Police And Cosatu

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The failure to ensure disused mineshafts are sealed has cost poor artisanal workers their lives, says the Congress of South African Trade Unions, in reference to the current death toll over 40 zama zamas at Eland Shaft mine in Welkom, Free State.

Speaking to Power FM on Friday morning, Welkom's cluster commander for police in Welkom head police General Lerato Molale confirmed that at this stage 29 bodies have been retrieved, two of which have been identified and returned to their home countries.

According to Molale, it is the zama zamas themselves who bring the bodies themselves to the police from wherever incidents occur.

Molale added that 11 zama zamas handed themselves over to the police after the incident for theft and being in the country without papers.

The general said that there has been a serious failure of responsible parties to seal off the mines with cement. In a statement on Thursday, Cosatu concurred.

"Mine owners have to deal with the fact that they are primarily responsible for creating an environment‚ where people are dying like flies every day," the union federation said.

"This has now become a reckless dereliction of duty by both government and mining sector... Government cannot continue to explain away these senseless deaths and the mining sector cannot pretend that these incidents have nothing to do with them," it said. "This has spawned this tragic phenomenon of illegal mining."