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The deadly cities of gold beneath Johannesburg

Section: Daily Dispatches

By Christopher Clark
The Guardian, London
Thursday, October 24, 2019

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- As he prepares to descend an abandoned mineshaft in Roodeport, a Johannesburg suburb, Fix, a sinewy informal goldminer from Lesotho, recounts stories of subterranean gun battles and unearthing the scattered bones of those who came before him.

"This is very dangerous work," he says, draining a quart of beer for courage. "But there’s a lot of money down there."

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South Africa's commercial capital of approximately 5 million inhabitants sits atop some of the world's largest gold deposits, as evinced by the more than 200 towering spoil heaps that punctuate its sprawling cityscape. Millions of ounces of unmined gold are still believed to lie beneath its surface, fuelling a booming but frequently deadly illicit goldmining industry. ...

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