Mine Dumps in Johannesburg

Each week Jakesprinters suggests a theme for creative inspiration. This week’s prompt is: Nature

Mine Dumps in Johannesburg

Mankind has often extracted what they find to be precious from Nature. Men have dug underground for the shiny material they call gold. Fights have begun over a stake or piece of land; groups of people have been exploited for the chance to be wealthy. In searching for the yellowish material, earth has been removed from underground and laid to rest on top of the land. These gold mine dumps have become a feature of Johannesburg, the city founded during the gold rush on the Reef.

The Reef of Johannesburg has been littered with mine dumps for decades. Made up of crushed rock that still contain traces of gold in them (at the time of dumping, these bits of gold could not be extracted), these “yellow mountains” were a part of the scenery when I was growing up. The yellowish, cream colour of the fine sand has been covered by vegetation to help prevent the fine dust from polluting the cities, towns and suburbs that surround them.  Grass, shrubs and eucalyptus trees cover the ground that originally comes from the underground as nature tries to camouflage the unusual sight and shape of man’s creation.

As you ride along the freeway, the following is a common sight:

Johannesburg Mine Dumps (1). © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

Even though grasses have been planted on the dumps, one is still able to see the golden-coloured sand below:

Johannesburg Mine Dumps (2). © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

Nature has tried to reclaim what was once its own. Trees and shrubs can be seen growing on these mine dumps:

Johannesburg Mine Dumps (3). © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

Though nature is still not able to take it back fully:

Johannesburg Mine Dumps (4). © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

Soon, however, many of these landmark dumps will all disappear – many already are a thing of the past – as a way to extract the fine gold particles from the sand has been found. As long as the price of gold is high, treating the sand that forms the dumps will be a viable proposition; and man will continue to sift through nature so that people can wear gold jewellery.

Johannesburg Mine Dumps (5). © Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

The land on which the former gold mine dumps were found, will now be sold to create homes for people. Instead of the golden heaps characterising the Reef, urban sprawl will now take over.

What do you think of the removal of Johannesburg’s landmark mine dumps?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

56 thoughts on “Mine Dumps in Johannesburg

  1. Colline
    You are writing about Africa! Love the pics. What can one say about urban sprawl? It eats up the natural habitat and causes a shift in the natural inhabitants of the area, including vegetation and wildlife. What do you think will be the fallout of this urban sprawl, Colline? Relating this situation to the urban sprawl of the GTA in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, we note a loss of some of the best farmland that feeds us and a shift of natural habitats for many wildlife species. But,…people do need homes to live in. I love win win solutions where idealistic outcomes prevail. How do we achieve this?

    Please, Colline, tell us what you think as this is your homeland. I wonder if boycotting gold jewelry would be the answer? Focussing on helping others versus self-adornment would be a great start. If homes are not built here where will they build?

    Love that you are writing about South Africa as venturing to Africa to participate in Doctors without Borders has been an unrealized dream of mine for the last 16 years! Please tell us more!

    Great post!!!!!


    1. Some of the land that has been cleared of the mine dumps has already been sold for dwellings – and the selling off of farming land is avoided for a bit. The city will try to build on these now open pieces of land to avoid the squatters coming in and creating their own squatter town.
      Unfortunately boycotting gold jewelry may not be a way to prevent the upheavel of Mother Nature: men and women love adoring themselves with these pieces. And a boycott would affect the thousands of people in South Africa who are dependent on gold mining for their living.
      Glad you enjoyed this post on my hometown – to me it is ordinary as I grew up there. Good to know that what is ordinary for me, is interesting for another.


  2. Colline
    Just thought of something else we can boycott. Diamonds!!! Our insatiable requirement for these symbols of love and connectedness has caused ruthless murders and senseless grief. What do you think?


    1. As with gold, diamond mining has led to the upheaval of nature’s land – as well as to the exploitation of groups of people. I have unfortunately not yet been to the diamond mines in South Africa.


  3. I too have lived in South Africa most of my life and remember the mine dumps, then bald and barren. Special mining chemicals stopped the growth of grass, and soil had to be treated in order to get plants started again. Lived near Boksburg for 8 years.
    Sadly I did visit the big Kimberley hole, where earth was disfigured to extract diamonds so many years ago. Then it was each man for himself.
    The beginning of the urge to own more and be more began. Must be rich!
    In 2012, only a different fashion has changed things: who earns the most; who won the lottery; why can I not have this or that!! Sad really, cause we have all we want or need; we only need to use and plan better.
    Got carried away! Good post Coline.


    1. Sadly man is driven by greed for more riches – and they do not think of the consequences of their desires on other people or on our environment. If people in the 1800s did not desire the wealth gold could bring imagine how different the city of Johannesbug, it surrounds, and the country of South Africa would have been.


        1. Gold has certainly given South Africa its wealth – and it was the reason why it was fought over in the past. If there was not the gold rush, the country may have been fought over for other reasons – as has been true in other African countries.


  4. Goodness Colline! This is a great post to see. I drive past mine dumps everyday as I live in Jo’burg.

    -‘People’s Choice movement: do come to SA for doctors without borders. It is a most amazing and fascinating country.


        1. No, I am still in Toronto. However the last time I visited Jo’burg I decided to take some pictures as I had noticed that many of the mine dumps I had seen as a child had disappeared!


  5. This is a very interesting post and I enjoyed reading it. This issue is complicated. I think we must be careful with the land and nature 🙂 Judy


    1. I agree, it is a complicated issue. And they have had to be careful that the off flow from the dumps did not cause environmental issues, or spoil the water that people drink.


  6. Hi,
    Very interesting information and great photos. I think it maybe a good idea getting rid of these sand dumps, it does give people somewhere to live as the population grows, and really the dumps were put there by man not by nature. Population will always grow, and finding space is always a problem the world over.


  7. I found that it is still very unhealthy to live near or on these mine dumps. The dust that comes from it is so microscopic small it clings into your lungs when breathing. I lived some years near Evander and this dust gave me asthma – always felt as if something was in my lungs! Don’t think it’s very healthy. Excellent post


      1. Thanks for the informative post. You have created quite a stir here. I just adore when people join in lively discussion regarding things of concern. Guarding our environment is our responsibility unfortunately as you have mentioned above the greed of man often stomps on righteousness.


        1. And how are we going to change the drive for even more gold? Change would only come, I think, when the environment becomes more important for those in power than capital gain.


  8. I had no idea about this. I knew that they had found a way to get minute bits of gold out of rocks, and many places in Victoria, where I am, could be mined again for that reason, but to lose the hills, that is strange. I know they are man made, but the whole thing is quite weird.

    I have always had a problem with stripping the planet of its resources. There has to be some pay back for that. This idea that because we can we will, just isn’t right. The damage that is caused is so sad, all so a few people can make some money. I’m on my soap box, sorry.


    1. I think many of us feel as you do Leanne. Personally I could do without that bit of gold for my wedding ring if it meant that the earth remain untainted.
      And the hills I photographed – those are man-made. The dumps were created from the sand and rock that has been mined from deep under the ground. The older mine dumps are now being sifted again in order to glean even more gold from the rock and sand.


      1. I am not a gold person, so I don’t care about getting it out, I think the last gold I purchased, that I know of, was my wedding ring 22 years ago, and even then it was second hand.


  9. From across the Atlantic, these dumps are not a site I have seen. We do have a lot of, what we call, strip mining, for ore and other minerals. Very interesting topic. Thanks – DogDaz


  10. Your amazing photos have led to a wonderful discussion, Colline!
    Here in the US, they’ve dug out caverns to mine whatever they wanted at the time…gold, silver, coal…at the expense of the health and lives of the people who did the work…but of course, the workers usually were not the ones who got the profits. 😦
    Thank you for sharing these with us…your photos are a window on a world I didn’t know about. 🙂


  11. Thanks for the info and photos. It is such a tough subject. I always prefer nature but that isn’t always possible. It is hard to stop human intervention via mines or homes. Lots to think about.


  12. Poor old nature, it’s my fervent wish that one day, when we’ve insulted her once to often, Gaia will fight back and teach us a lesson. A lesson “we” will learn. Diamond rings, golden necklaces, precious earths, mountains of iron ore, yellow cake, bauxite, coal, oil, … or self-annihilation?


    1. It took the people in the labs a long time to find the vegetation that would survive on these sands. Thank goodness they did as the homes around these dumps can get very dusty.


  13. It’s sad how people continue to take Nature for granted. People forget that real treasures are having a beautiful environment blessed with pure nature and love of family/friends. Wonderful pictures.


    1. Thank you. That is the problem when a country’s economy depends on things such as mining. We see the countryside littered with mine dumps; and need to live with no only the view of them, but also the dust they bring.


  14. Stark illustration of how man ruins the earth. We have the same type of scene here in way too many places, strip mining and tracking and all. Interesting post


  15. Hi Colline

    You’ve studied these sites, I just wanted to know if the sand is similar to that of the desert/beach because I have an idea that will improve the communities around these mine dumps. Job creation.

    It’s 2016 and I haven’t seen changes in these mines.


    1. I have not studied these sites but have grown up surrounded by them. The answer to your question would be best answered by those who have studied mining sands.


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