Jason Larkin/Panos

After Johannesburg's Gold Rush: Mine Dumps

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    Johannesburg is filled with mine dumps left by the gold rush that began in 1886. Nearly 2 million people live on or near the 6 billion tons of earth in the city's bleached-white and yellow tailings. Photographer Jason Larkin explores these dumps and shows how they are integrated into the sprawling metropolis's landscape, as well as repurposed to extract further gold. His book on the project, Tales From The City of Gold, will be published by Kehrer in October.

    Jason Larkin/Panos
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    Anna, who provided no last name, cleans her carpet of sand that collected in her home from the dump beneath it. Over half a million people are said to be living directly on mine dumps across Johannesburg.

    Jason Larkin/Panos
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    The Top Star Cinema's screen stands on mining refuse that is being reprocessed around the drive-in.

    Jason Larkin/Panos Pictures
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    An informal settlement known as Jerusalem can be viewed from the peak of a mine dump owned by DRD Gold. 

    Jason Larkin/Panos
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    Decades of extraction have pulverized rock to dust that's finer than sea sand. Here, children from Jerusalem play amid sand that activists fear contains dangerous levels of acid and heavy metals.

    Jason Larkin/Panos
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    Charl van Rensburg, an amateur motocross rider, is one of those who regularly ride motorbikes on abandoned mine dumps west of Johannesburg, vexing residents of the local squatter camps.

    Jason Larkin/Panos
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    Heavy metals line a filter bed that is used to store water draining from a large mine dump not far from Soccer City Stadium, which was built recently in Johannesburg's Soweto section.

    Jason Larkin/Panos
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    A high-pressure water flow breaks down mining refuse in Krugersdorp to create an easily transportable slurry. This runs through a network of pipes to a central processing factory, at which any remaining gold will be extracted.

    Jason Larkin/Panos
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    Trucks transport sand from Dump 20, once one of the world's largest heaps, to trains that will deliver it to a processing plant for gold extraction several miles away. Gold 1 has removed 17 million tons of waste in the six years it has been reclaiming this dump. Rehabilitation of the land, which is earmarked for use as open, public space, is scheduled to begin in 2018.

    Jason Larkin/Panos
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    Prince Ngweaya, 20 years old, employs time-consuming, archaic methods to process mine waste at this old DRD site. A former professional miner who prefers to work six days a week as his own boss, Ngweaya says he can make up to 3000 Rand ($395) per month.

    Jason Larkin/Panos
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    A newly constructed road winds around a still-used tailings dam belonging to DRD Gold, which owns over 150 mine dumps across Johannesburg. Much of Johannesburg's infrastructure is situated on land near—even atop—old mining sites.

    Jason Larkin/Panos
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    Admi (who provided no last name), 38, averages a daily income of R 150 ($15.25) as he collects and sells materials from a municipal rubbish dump to scrap and recycling companies. Garbage is piled on several old dumps that mining companies sold or rented to municipalities many years ago. — With Mara Karsas-Nelson

    Jason Larkin/Panos