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Desperation in South Africa's City of Gold

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Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

A suspected illegal miner (C) is questioned by police after he emerged from underground at Johannesburg's oldest gold mine in Langlaagte, South Africa. Scores of illegal miners die each year in the labyrinth of tunnels that stretch beneath the streets of Johannesburg and beyond, although police and the government admit they have no idea of the precise toll. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A suspected illegal miner (C) is questioned by police after he emerged from underground at Johannesburg's oldest gold mine in Langlaagte, South Africa. Scores of illegal miners die each year in the labyrinth of tunnels that stretch beneath the streets of Johannesburg and beyond, although police and the government admit they have no idea of the precise toll. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

A relative covers the body of a miner after it was retrieved from a mine in Langlaagte, South Africa. Millions of men have sought their fortune deep underground in the gold mines that help to define South Africa. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A relative covers the body of a miner after it was retrieved from a mine in Langlaagte, South Africa. Millions of men have sought their fortune deep underground in the gold mines that help to define South Africa. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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2 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

An entrance to an underground gold mine is seen in Langlaagte, South Africa. In the annals of South African mining, Langlaagte looms large as the farm where prospectors first stumbled upon gold in 1886, a discovery that would open up the richest veins of gold-bearing rock mankind has discovered. Since then, the metre-wide seams, or reefs, that stretch for hundreds of kilometres east, west and south across the Witwatersrand Basin...more

An entrance to an underground gold mine is seen in Langlaagte, South Africa. In the annals of South African mining, Langlaagte looms large as the farm where prospectors first stumbled upon gold in 1886, a discovery that would open up the richest veins of gold-bearing rock mankind has discovered. Since then, the metre-wide seams, or reefs, that stretch for hundreds of kilometres east, west and south across the Witwatersrand Basin have produced more than 2 billion ounces of gold -- roughly half of all the bullion ever mined. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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3 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

Relatives and friends bring to the surface the body of a miner after recovering it from Langlaagte. In most cases after an accident, the miners -- mainly illegal migrants from neighboring Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho or Swaziland -- are reluctant to alert authorities for fear of being arrested and deported. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Relatives and friends bring to the surface the body of a miner after recovering it from Langlaagte. In most cases after an accident, the miners -- mainly illegal migrants from neighboring Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho or Swaziland -- are reluctant to alert authorities for fear of being arrested and deported. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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4 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

A suspected illegal miner (C) is welcomed by friends and family members as he surfaces from an underground gold mine in Langlaagte. When police and emergency services are called in, mine-rescue teams often deem the risk too great, especially after flooding, fires or rockfalls in 100-year-old tunnels compromised by unauthorized and unregulated digging and blasting. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A suspected illegal miner (C) is welcomed by friends and family members as he surfaces from an underground gold mine in Langlaagte. When police and emergency services are called in, mine-rescue teams often deem the risk too great, especially after flooding, fires or rockfalls in 100-year-old tunnels compromised by unauthorized and unregulated digging and blasting. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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5 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

Miners look on after they retrieved the bodies of two other miners from Langlaagte. Known in Zulu as 'zama-zamas', which loosely translates as 'those who try to get something from nothing', illegal miners are now a permanent fixture of the shanties that ring Johannesburg and its satellite towns along the gold reef. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Miners look on after they retrieved the bodies of two other miners from Langlaagte. Known in Zulu as 'zama-zamas', which loosely translates as 'those who try to get something from nothing', illegal miners are now a permanent fixture of the shanties that ring Johannesburg and its satellite towns along the gold reef. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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6 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

Relatives and friends of miners wait for the retrieval of bodies at an entrance a gold mine in Langlaagte. Thousands are thought to be operating at any one time, driven since the turn of the century by gold priced at more than $1,000 an ounce, and the joblessness and economic hardship that prevails across southern Africa. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Relatives and friends of miners wait for the retrieval of bodies at an entrance a gold mine in Langlaagte. Thousands are thought to be operating at any one time, driven since the turn of the century by gold priced at more than $1,000 an ounce, and the joblessness and economic hardship that prevails across southern Africa. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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7 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

Relatives and friends carry the body of a miner after recovering it from a mine in Langlaagte. Although illegal mining is a common problem across many emerging markets, it has become particularly acute in South Africa given the country's mineral riches and the legions of poor people in the region. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Relatives and friends carry the body of a miner after recovering it from a mine in Langlaagte. Although illegal mining is a common problem across many emerging markets, it has become particularly acute in South Africa given the country's mineral riches and the legions of poor people in the region. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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8 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

A relative is consoled after the retrieval of the bodies of two miners from Langlaagte. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A relative is consoled after the retrieval of the bodies of two miners from Langlaagte. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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9 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

A miner looks into an entrance of a gold mine in Langlaagte. In Zimbabwe, unemployment is above 80 percent but on a good trip underground, a zama-zama can recover gold worth 3,000 rand ($210) or more once the ore has been crushed, panned and then 'cleaned' with mercury to remove silt, miners told Reuters. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A miner looks into an entrance of a gold mine in Langlaagte. In Zimbabwe, unemployment is above 80 percent but on a good trip underground, a zama-zama can recover gold worth 3,000 rand ($210) or more once the ore has been crushed, panned and then 'cleaned' with mercury to remove silt, miners told Reuters. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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10 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

A miner is transported on a stretcher by rescue workers after he was rescued from below ground in Langlaagte. Besides the frequent accidents, zama-zamas are blamed for outbreaks of violence, including underground shoot-outs between rival gangs, environmental pollution from the use of mercury and links to organized crime through the illicit gold supply chain. As such, the government takes a dim view of their...more

A miner is transported on a stretcher by rescue workers after he was rescued from below ground in Langlaagte. Besides the frequent accidents, zama-zamas are blamed for outbreaks of violence, including underground shoot-outs between rival gangs, environmental pollution from the use of mercury and links to organized crime through the illicit gold supply chain. As such, the government takes a dim view of their activities. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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11 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

Relatives and friends of miners wait for the retrieval of bodies outside an entrance of a gold mine in Langlaagte. The Department of Mineral Resources, which is responsible for disused mines, says it has blocked up 200 shafts, but with thousands of ventilation and other openings dotted along the reef, it is never going to be able to plug all the holes. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Relatives and friends of miners wait for the retrieval of bodies outside an entrance of a gold mine in Langlaagte. The Department of Mineral Resources, which is responsible for disused mines, says it has blocked up 200 shafts, but with thousands of ventilation and other openings dotted along the reef, it is never going to be able to plug all the holes. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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12 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

A suspected illegal miner looks at the entrance of an underground gold mine in Langlaagte. Even blocked shafts seldom stay that way for long, with zama-zamas known to bring in lifting gear and explosives to dislodge concrete slabs or cement plugs, according to the Chamber of Mines, the main industry body. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A suspected illegal miner looks at the entrance of an underground gold mine in Langlaagte. Even blocked shafts seldom stay that way for long, with zama-zamas known to bring in lifting gear and explosives to dislodge concrete slabs or cement plugs, according to the Chamber of Mines, the main industry body. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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13 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

A police officer gestures to a suspected illegal miner after he surfaced from an underground mine in Langlaagte. Taking a different tack, the police and gold companies have teamed up to target those further up the supply chain who spirit the illicit bullion into the local and international mainstream, although so far there have been few convictions. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A police officer gestures to a suspected illegal miner after he surfaced from an underground mine in Langlaagte. Taking a different tack, the police and gold companies have teamed up to target those further up the supply chain who spirit the illicit bullion into the local and international mainstream, although so far there have been few convictions. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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14 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

Suspected illegal miners look on after they surfaced from an underground mine in Langlaagte. The Chamber of Mines has even started to argue for partial decriminalization. "Some artisanal mining, even where unlawful in the current circumstances, has the potential to become beneficial to communities if properly regulated," it said in a report published this year. But until the economies of the region start providing alternative...more

Suspected illegal miners look on after they surfaced from an underground mine in Langlaagte. The Chamber of Mines has even started to argue for partial decriminalization. "Some artisanal mining, even where unlawful in the current circumstances, has the potential to become beneficial to communities if properly regulated," it said in a report published this year. But until the economies of the region start providing alternative sources of income for the millions of unemployed, little is likely to change. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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15 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

Suspected illegal miners walk after they surfaced from an underground mine in Langlaagte. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Suspected illegal miners walk after they surfaced from an underground mine in Langlaagte. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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16 / 17
Photographer
Siphiwe Sibeko
Location
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

A suspected illegal miner (C) is questioned by police after he emerged from an underground gold mine in Langlaagte. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A suspected illegal miner (C) is questioned by police after he emerged from an underground gold mine in Langlaagte. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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