Pretoria — At least 14 bodies of suspected illegal miners have been found dumped in the last two days in Benoni on the East Rand in South Africa's Gauteng Province.
A passer-by discovered the first six bullet-riddled bodies dumped on Sunday, and eight more were found by police on Monday.
Police suspect it was a turf war between rival illegal mining gangs.
Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane condemned what he called the senseless murders.
He said preliminary investigations showed that the men may have all been killed in the same way.
Gauteng police spokesperson Lungelo Dlamini said police were investigating the murder of 14 people.
"The motive for the killing might be linked to the rival gangs involved in illegal mining‚" said Lt Col Dlamini.
A sharp object
"It appears that the victims were either killed with a sharp object or shot before their bodies were dumped. It is still unknown where they were killed and the bodies have not yet been identified."
Mining analyst David van Wyk said illegal miners must be formalised in order for the authorities to have some control over the industry.
"The Minerals and Petroleum Resource Development Act allows for small-scale mining. The problem is that the processes involved are too complicated for these guys to understand and organise themselves thereon because many of them are not literate," he said.
Lt Col Dlamini appealed to the public to provide the police with information urgently.
He said Benoni, a city 40km away from Johannesburg, has been plagued by illegal miner murders in the past.
"We suspect that they might be illegal miners because they engage in illegal activities in the area and in the past we've seen other people working in rival gangs."
On Monday, illegal miners in the area said that they heard gunshots at a nearby shaft.
They warned that so-called rival illegal miners were armed and dangerous.