South Africa. The investigation was launched after 20 bodies were found near a gold mine South African News

The dead are believed to be illegal miners whose decomposed bodies were found near an abandoned mine in Orkney.

South African police have launched an investigation into the deaths of 20 men found near an abandoned gold mine in the North West.

The bodies, some of which were badly decomposed, were found outside a minefield near the railway line in Orkney, about 180 km (111 miles) southwest of Johannesburg, police said in a statement on Wednesday.

It says the bodies were “found wrapped in white plastic bags” and had “severe burns to the body”. An autopsy will be performed, the message added.

“All of the dead are believed to be illegal miners, commonly known as ‘zama zamas’, operating on the obsolete shafts of Orkney and Stilfontein,” the statement said.

“The first five bodies were found on Monday, և 15 (more) bodies” on Tuesday, police spokesman Sabata Mokgabone told AFP.

The identities are unknown

According to South Africa’s SABC News, police have yet to identify the men.

“This follows unconfirmed reports over the weekend that a number of illegal miners were killed in an underground blast,” the statement said.

SABC quoted Mokgwabone as saying: “They are all male bodies, I can confirm that at this stage they have not been found yet, that they have been badly decomposed, that they have had severe burns.” Our investigation is still ongoing, և we hope that along with the progress in the investigation. “We will be able to find out who those people are, maybe what could have led to this particular incident.”

Thousands of “Zama Zamans”, meaning “those who try their luck” in Zulu, operate in the country, according to the South African Human Rights Commission.

The mining industry, which employs almost half a million people, to contribute about 8% of the country’s total GDP last year. However, more and more people are involved in illegal mining, most of them run by criminal unions. About 50 percent of blacks continue to live in poverty, almost 30 years after the end of white rule.

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