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City of Gold (TG)

Welkom cité de l'Or

Associated feature: Surviving for Gold (Audio feature)

Thierry Gouegnon/Twenty Ten

Située au sud de Johannesbourg, Welkom est une ville de la province de Free State en Afrique du Sud. En 2001, elle comptait 408 173 habitants, avec un sous-sol très riche en mineraux, tels que, l’or, l’uranium et autres. L’exploitation de l’or reste l’activité la plus pratiquée dans cette région, d’où la présence de plusieurs centaines de mineurs illégaux qui sont en majorité des ressortissants étrangers venus du Zimbabwe voisin. Bienvenue donc dans leur univers!

City of Gold

Thierry Gouegnon/Twenty Ten

Location: Welkom, South Africa

Located south of Johannesburg, Welkom is a city of the Free State Province in South Africa. In 2001, it had 408,173 inhabitants, with a subsoil rich in minerals, such as, gold, uranium and others. The gold mining activity remains the most widely practiced in this region, hence the presence of hundreds of illegal miners, who were mostly foreign nationals from neighboring Zimbabwe. So, welcome to their world!

Illegal miners flock to the area, drawn by its promise of mineral wealth and prosperity. In 2001, the town of Welkom had more than 400,000 inhabitants, many of whom were illegal miners in search of a better life.

The economic crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe meant that hundreds of Zimbabweans crossed the border looking for greener pastures. A lot of them ended up in Welkom where they scour abandoned gold mines for whatever they can find.

Avoiding the watchful eye of security guards, even youths from the area find gaps in the barbed wire fences of abandoned mines. They sieve the sand in the hope of discovering nuggets of gold that they can sell for cash.

One only has to look at the smiles of the locals here to see how sought after the mineral is. Many have gold teeth inserted which is seen as a sign of affluence by many South Africans.

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