The largest gold seam in the world is in South Africa. When gold was discovered on a farm named Langlaagte in 1886, it triggered the so-called “Witwatersrand Gold Rush”. Within only a few years, Johannesburg, the former miners’ camp, grew to be the largest city in South Africa. For many inhabitants, the mining of precious metal meant work. For a few, the so-called “randlords”, it meant immense wealth.
These days, mining is becoming more and more difficult because the remaining gold needs to be mined from ever deeper levels. Many mines have closed as a result. What remains are massive slag heaps and wastewater lakes containing toxic and radioactive residue. Only a few mining companies even attempt to regenerate and renature their former mines. The numerous loopholes in the lax rules have proven ineffective against the greed of the companies. To this day, the gold mines’ poisonous and radioactive legacy threatens the inhabitants of Johannesburg and its surroundings.