The power of mining: the fall of gold and rise of Johannesburg


The City of Johannesburg has developed through the entire life-cycle of the mining industry. In its early years, its development was tied to the varying, but generally upward, fortunes of the mining industry. During this time, gold mining in Johannesburg, and along the Witwatersrand, propelled the growth of South Africa's national economy into a phase of self-sustained development, and created an integrated labour market across southern Africa. It also played a key role in shaping the racial oligarchy that dominated South Africa until the fall of apartheid in the 1990s. However, gold was eventually to decline, first in the areas around Johannesburg, and then elsewhere. The growth of Johannesburg, however, continued and the urban economy became increasingly diversified and flexible. This growth seemed divorced from mining but was, in fact, deeply rooted in the history of mining. The mining industry played an intimate role in the development of the manufacturing sector and also in the emergence of financial services; which is currently the leading economic sector in Johannesburg. These economic changes are represented in continuous evolution of the spatial form of the city. Currently the physical legacy of mining is understood mainly in terms of its deleterious environmental consequences, including acid mine drainage, with the long and profound impact of mining on the patterning of urban growth largely forgotten.


Harrison, P.; Hack, T. The power of mining: the fall of gold and rise of Johannesburg. Journal of Contemporary African Studies (2012) 30 (4) 551-570. [DOI: 10.1080/02589001.2012.724869]

The power of mining: the fall of gold and rise of Johannesburg

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