The South African Police Services (SAPS) is investigating the discovery of 21 bodies suspected of being illegal miners and found near an active mine west of Johannesburg.
According to police, 19 bodies were discovered on Wednesday afternoon and two more were discovered on Thursday morning.
“We can confirm that this morning our search and rescue team went back to the scene and, as they were searching, they discovered two more bodies. They retrieved them from an open (mine) shaft,” police spokeswoman Brenda Muridili said.
The grim discovery is the latest in a series of incidents related to illegal mining in the same area.
In July, eight female members of a film crew were raped and robbed at an abandoned mine in the area, where they were working on a music video shoot.
The incident sparked violent protests against illegal miners in surrounding communities.
Illegal mining is rife in South Africa, with miners known locally as “zama zamas” searching for gold at the many disused and abandoned mines in and around the Johannesburg region.
Illegal mining gangs are considered dangerous by the police, are usually armed and are known to fight violent turf battles with rival groups. The trade is believed to be dominated by immigrants who enter illegally from neighboring countries Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
The 14 men who had rape and robbery charges against them dropped are accused of being in South Africa illegally and have been charged with immigration offenses.