There was no reason to actually have a city here were it not for the mineral wealth; the drinking water had to be pumped in from the Vaal, everything else had to be carted in as Africa’s fabled El Dorado took shape.
The results, though, spoke for themselves. If you ever venture into the CBD, pop in past Standard Bank’s offices in Simmonds Street. The old mine workings are preserved in the basement. It must be the only bank actually built atop a gold mine.
Joburg managed to successfully transition from a mining economy to a services economy, albeit mostly situated in Sandton, when the gold mining caravan followed the reef out to Klerksdorp, Orkney and then the fabulous wealth beneath the mealie lands of the northern Free State.
But here’s the rub; the gold mining companies who did all that are mostly no longer with us - and those that still exist are a shadow of their former selves. We’re left with the legacy and it’s literally toxic.