Dangerous allure of illegal gold dust
The pungent smell of dagga greets you as you enter G-hostel which stands out like a festering sore in the middle of Thabong township.
G-hostel is a family hostel owned by the Matjhabeng municipality in Welkom in the Free State.
At the entrance a group of young men gamble while loud central African music rents the air.
The hostel is believed to be a hive of illegal miners after Welkom police raided the area and found gold dust and refining equipment there on Tuesday.
"I want to work on the mines because that is the only decent job I can get in this place" said a young man who declined to be named.
Old piles of rubbish and puddles of stagnant water cause a huge stink across the vast and dusty yards. Children, some with dried mucous on their unwashed little faces, play as if without a care in the world.
"For some reason this place is not taken care of," said Captain David Mongali of the Welkom SAPS.
People at the hostel said they were aware of the illegal miners and their activities but could not speak out for fear of their lives.
At the hostel, Sowetan found gold dust in basins that illegal miners use to wash the metal residue.
A small corrugated-iron shack was packed with wood that police said is used to make fire for the refinement of the dust. Next to it were sheets of metal which are also used in refining gold dust.
"Life is tough here and most of the people do not have jobs," said Colin, a hostel resident.
Police are yet to find the mastermind behind illegal mining in the area, while more people are lured to the dangerous activity.