The gold mining sector has since expanded into the largest in the world, but declining reserves have led to the closure of hundreds of mines around South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg. The legacy includes polluted ponds and huge piles of waste called ‘tailings’.
This audio slideshow visits a site where these tailings sit beside some of the country’s poorest communities, contaminating both their air and water supplies.
Wind blows dust far and wide from these mineral mountains and rainfall creates acid water, which leaches into surrounding streams and wetlands, killing wildlife and contaminating water supplies.
Local authorities have installed water filtration plants in the area to reduce the health risks for nearby residents. But the problem persists.