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Millions of ounces of unmined gold are still believed to lie below the surface, fuelling a booming — but frequently deadly — illicit industry. Thu 24 Oct A s he prepares to descend an abandoned mineshaft in the Johannesburg suburb of Roodepoort, Fix, a sinewy informal goldminer from Lesotho, recounts stories of subterranean gun battles and unearthing the scattered bones of those who came before him.
Millions of ounces of unmined gold are still believed to lie beneath its surface, fuelling a booming but frequently deadly illicit goldmining industry.
Sometimes, he says, he can go down a shaft in the far west of the city and emerge bleary eyed on its opposite edge a week later. Twenty-five years after the fall of the brutal apartheid regime, South Africa's cities remain hugely divided, both economically and racially. This week Guardian Cities explores the incredible changes taking place, the challenges faced and the projects that bring hope.
Africa correspondent Jason Burke reports from the Flats, where violence and death are endemic just miles from Cape Town's spectacular beaches and trendy cafes. We hear from Port Elizabeth, where one architect is using recycled materials to transform his city, and Durban, where a surf school is changing the lives of vulnerable children.
In some mining areas surrounding Johannesburg, informal miners have been rumoured to spend as long as six months underground, sustained by makeshift underground villages where basic foodstuffs, airtime, alcohol and even sex are sold at dramatically inflated prices.