Security guards came across four bodies at a gold mine near New Modder, east of the Benoni CBD, at around 9am on Saturday morning.
The shaft, found in an open veld, is believed to have been long abandoned.
Gauteng police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini told Sapa that four bodies had been found with “several [spent] cartridges” around them.
The motive for the killing was as yet unknown.
By 3pm that afternoon, another body had been discovered.
“Another body found: sector 7. Benoni. GP. Gunshot wound to head,” the Benoni Community Policing Forum tweeted.
And by 3pm yesterday, two more bodies had been found. Police at the scene confirmed that an eighth was still trapped underground.
Community speculation is that the men were executed, most likely by members of a rival illegal mining gang.
Factional fighting between gangs of different nationalities or cultures is commonplace in South Africa. Theft of a rival group’s spoils is an ever-present hazard of the trade.
At least 25 illegal miners were trapped just below the surface at another shaft in Benoni in February this year, after members of a rival gang allegedly threw boulders and debris down the open shaft, trapping the miners underground and sparking a rescue effort by Ekurhuleni EMS.
The eight most recent reported deaths bring to at least 22 the number of mining-related deaths reported in the media this year.
Benoni police advised The Citizen that the case had been transferred to the Hawks.
Several attempts to contact spokesperson Captain Paul Ramaloko were unsuccessful yesterday.