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The South African Police Service (SAPS) has launched an investigation into the deaths of nine suspected illegal miners in Johannesburg.

The miners from Lesotho were stoned to death in an alleged clash by rival workers in Matholeville, Johannesburg.

Around 87 people have been taken into custody for questioning.

The attack came a day after Gauteng Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Elias Mawela and his team led a raid in the area as part of Operation O Kae Molao.

According to The Independent, thousands of people in South Africa are involved in illegal mining. They mostly resort to such activity at sites that have been shut down by the firms.

Also known as ‘zama zamas’, illegal miners in South Africa target deposits of minerals, including gold and diamonds, in closed shafts or dangerous locations.

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Mawela said: “We condemn this barbaric attack and we will ensure we leave no stone unturned in making the people of Matholeville and Roodepoort feel safe.

“The suspects will be arrested as soon as possible and the police will not sleep until we find them.”

In November 2018, the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) in South Africa called for a report into illegal mining in Johannesburg.

In the same year, thousands of artisanal miners were given permits to mine on land in Kimberley, which is located in the country’s Northern Cape Province.

In a separate development, 23 illegal gold mining holes have been closed within the area of Mount Pongkor in Bogor Regency, West Java, Indonesia.

A Bogor Police spokesperson said that such illegal mining activities have ‘damaged the environment and caused natural disasters’.