A group of more than twenty illegal miners in the Free State were given long prison sentences in the Virginia Circuit Court on Tuesday.
The men and one woman were convicted on 577 charges that include racketeering, money laundering, the contravention of the Precious Metals Act and the Criminal Procedure Act.
They were also charged with trespassing and violating the Immigration Act as well as the theft of gold-bearing material worth more than R120m.
The State's effort to secure guilty verdicts on charges pertaining to illegal miner syndicates, the smuggling of gold-bearing material and money laundering is hailed as a breakthrough in the fight against illegal mining.
Lovemore Mlambo, 35, the man believed to be the syndicate leader will serve an effective 25 years in prison. Another illegal miner Simon Cremora, 38, will serve 23 years.
The rest of the illegal miners were sentenced to between 20 and 22 years in prison.
Judge Soma Naidoo ordered that the sentences of all the accused run concurrently.
Hawks spokesperson Captain Philani Nkwalase said the matter relates to the arrest of illegal miners at the Masimong Mine in Welkom in April 2014 for illegal mining operations that started two years earlier.
The miners were arrested during underground operations by mine security personnel and the Hawks. It was alleged that during the underground clashes between security personnel and police the illegal miners set off explosives to foil the security personnel's efforts to catch them.