CRIMINAL syndicates are behind illegal mining in the Welkom area .They use "abo zama zama" - code name for the illegal diggers - to go underground and search for the precious metal.
Luxury cars regularly drive past from the dilapidated G Hostel that used to house miners from neighbouring countries.
"These cars belong to the bosses who run the syndicates," locals told Sowetan in hushed tones.
Not far from this mining town is Thabong township.
One woman said she was looking for a relative but would not reveal his identity. She remained mum out of fear of being questioned by police.
A young man who talked to us on condition of anonymity said illegal mining was a thriving business in the area.
He said he stopped getting involved last year "because people are dying in this business". He said he had joined the diggers after losing his job on a farm.
He described the underground illegal mining as "a township business with more than 100 people underground every day".
"There are people down there who go to sell food and cigarettes. They make a killing because they charge R100 for a packet of cigarettes.
"I stayed underground for two months searching for gold. You cannot come out until you get what you are searching for," he said.