File picture.

Thabong, Free State - Sixty-six illegal miners have been arrested in Thabong, in the Free State, police said on Friday.

Captain Stephen Thakeng said they were arrested in G-Hostel and in Eland Mine during the police's Operation Illegal Mine on Thursday.

They included people selling liquor without a licence and illegal immigrants from Lesotho.

“Items used to process gold, liquor... cash that amounts to R6 800, and gold were seized (in G-Hostel).”

Thakeng said that at the Eland Mine, police confiscated smelting equipment, mills, zinc, stampers, mine lamps, crowbars, spades, hammers and wheelbarrows belonging to illegal miners.

“Police had to chase (them) inside the muddy stream near the mine.”

The operation included the police, crime intelligence, the Matjhabeng Traffic department, the home affairs department, Matjhabeng Security, Harmony mine security, Protea Coin Security and Goldfields Security, he said.

The 66 would appear in the Welkom Magistrate's Court on Monday on charges of possession of precious metal, possession of suspected stolen items, dealing in liquor without a licence, trespassing, attempted theft of gold and illegal immigration. - Sapa