Despite repeated threats from the Newcastle municipality and Department of Mineral Resources to shut down the mine, groups of elderly men and women continue to mine for coal and sand in a bid to sustain their families.
The residents who continue to live in Blaauwbosch Village have to contend with cracks on their floors and walls, as a result of the mining.
Rebuilding their lounge wall has become a common practice for the Mbatha sisters.
They said each time the wall collapsed, they simply collected bricks and rebuilt.
Fortunately, no-one in their family had been injured.
Nelisiwe Mbatha and her sister have been living in one of the homes bordering the mine for several years.
She said her parents, who have since passed, had been promised they would be given a new home, further away from the mine.
“My father was the breadwinner in our home and after he died, there was no one earning a decent income. There are 10 of us living together. We live off government grants and cannot afford to pack up and leave,” she said.
Mbatha said illegal mining and cracks in their house had been a part of her life for the past 37 years.
“I am not scared to live here,” she said.
Mbatha said officials from the municipality had come out on numerous occasions to investigate, each time promising they would be relocated.
“But nothing happens. Our neighbours could afford to move and that is what they did. We cannot. We need assistance from the municipality but they just come here and make more and more empty promises,” she said.
According to a report by the portfolio committee on mineral resources, the illegal mining had resulted in underground disturbances under the Mzamo High School.
The report said the illegal mining activity had put the lives of pupils and teachers at risk
It also noted there were increased signs of risk of subsidence and spontaneous combustion.
The school was relocated to another site a few metres away.
Reporter for The Mercury Sakhiseni Nxumalo, who grew up not far from Blaauwbosch, recounted how he would walk past these houses to get to the nearest soccer field.
Nxumalo said many families had packed up and left their homes in Blaauwbosch.
Previously there were houses which stood tall and proud, now there was only a hole where illegal miners continued to dig for coal and sand.
Professor Jasper Knight of the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies Department, said the issue of illegal mining had a devastating impact on the environment and community.
He said there were a range of hazards that had serious health implications.
“Illegal mining often takes place where it should not and the illegal miners flout laws and legislation.
“Illegal mining impacts on water, soil and vegetation.
“It can also disturb the land surface.
“You find in areas of illegal mining, there is a lot of dust and it exacerbates respiratory ailments, asthma and tuberculosis. It is also very bad for children.
“You also find in most cases that people get sick from drinking the water,” he said.
Knight said the structural collapses could be attributed to movement in the soil and “mine walls” not being supported by proper structure.
Many residents who are financially unable to move to other areas are forced to contend with poor health conditions and homes that could fall apart at any moment.