Johannesburg’s mining heritage – photo story

Johannesburg’s mine dumps are disappearing fast from the city’s urban landscape. Image courtesy

Mark Straw

The discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886 led to Gauteng becoming one of the largest economic hubs in Africa. The lure of gold brought thousands of people from all over the world to the southern-most tip of Africa, and mining changed the landscape of the country.

Today many signs of this past can still be seen in Johannesburg, even though some are disappearing – the tall, cream-coloured mine dumps that are made up of crushed rock are slowly being removed to make space for buildings and urban developments. Soon, most of these iconic landscape features will disappear.

There are other visual icons that point to our mining heritage. The following photo essay shows you what to look out for. These photographs were taken by local photographer and founder of the Joburg Photowalkers group Mark Straw. For those keen to find out more about Gauteng’s mining heritage, the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust conducts tours that detail the rich history of the discovery of gold and subsequent developments.

Bluegum trees

These trees, originally from Australia, were brought to South Africa to stand as supports for mining shafts.

Image courtesy Mark Straw


A steel head frame that was usually found above a mineshaft, used for hoisting up mine materials.

Image courtesy Mark Straw

Stamp mill/battery

A mill machine used to crush material. This stamp mill has been installed in the Johannesburg CBD to commemorate Gauteng’s mining heritage.

Image courtesy Mark Straw

Mine dumps

Many of these mine dumps still contain some gold extract owing to poor mining techniques in the past. This has led to these man-made mountains being re-mined. This photograph is from the top of a mine dump at sunset.

Image courtesy Mark Straw

George Harrison Park at Langlaagte

This park commemorates the site where gold was first discovered in Johannesburg.

Image courtesy Mark Straw

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