The grim discovery is 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. The incident sparked violent protests against illegal miners in surrounding communities.
Last week, rape and robbery charges against 14 men, who are also suspected of being illegal miners, were withdrawn after police couldn't link them to the rapes through DNA evidence.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 edge 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. 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.