South African police discovered at least 21 bodies suspected of being illegal miners found near an active mine in the town of Krugersdorp, West of Johannesburg.

The voice of Peers Potter

Police said 19 bodies were discovered on Wednesday afternoon and two more were discovered on Thursday morning. According to police they suspect that the bodies were moved to the location where they were found, which is a privately-owned mine.

The search and rescue team went back to the scene, as they were searching, they discovered two more bodies this morning. They retrieved them from an open (mine) shaft,” police spokeswoman Brenda Muridili said Thursday.

The incident sparked violent protests against illegal miners in surrounding communities.

The latest in a series of incidents related to illegal mining in the Krugersdorp 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.

Last week, rape and robbery charges against 14 men, who are also suspected of being illegal miners, were withdrawn after police couldn’t link them to the rapes through DNA evidence. The men were arrested during police raids on the abandoned mine where the rapes took place.

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. Krugersdorp is a mining town on the western edges of Johannesburg.

Illegal mining gangs are considered dangerous by the police, are usually armed, and are known to fight violent turf battles with rival groups.

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