Results of a nationwide safety audit of South African mines were worrying because they showed a low level of safety compliance, a top government mining official told parliament on Tuesday.

South African President Thabo Mbeki ordered the mine safety audit in October following a series of mine accidents.

We've been doing this presidential audit and the results (will) be out soon and they are worrying, Thabo Gazi, the chief inspector of mines at the Department of Minerals and Energy told MPs during a briefing on a new mine safety bill.

They are really worrying because generally levels of compliance in our industry is low, Gazi said.

Gazi said the audit, which targeted 333 high-risk and targeted mines, was close to being finalised and was expected to be handed over to Mbeki in mid-July.

The audit was ordered by Mbeki after an accident last year which trapped 3,200 workers at Harmony Gold's J> Elandsrand mine underground for close to 48 hours.

The incident highlighted the safety issue, coming after a string of fatal accidents.

South Africa, a major producer of gold and platinum, suffered more deaths mines last year than the year before, prompting the government to temporarily shut down mines whenever the deaths occurred, reducing mining output.

The NUM staged an unprecedented one-day industry-wide strike to force companies to focus on safety in a country with the world's deepest mines.

The government said mineworker deaths rose 11 percent last year to 221 from 2006, the first jump since 2002, as mine workers were killed by rockfalls, explosions or buried underground during earth tremors.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia)

(c) Reuters 2008. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.