Project Global: Ground

This exploration of our current day metropolitan condition as a system of systems deals with the crust of the Earth as a primary carrying capacitor of human activities, from the extraction of resources deep within the ground, to agricultural operations that barely scratch the surface.

Part 1: Lexicon

Part 2: Atlas

Part 3: Architectural Projects

Part 1: Lexicon index

︎ Formation

    ︎ Kaapvaal Craton
    ︎ Johannesburg Dome
    ︎ Vredefort Dome
    ︎ Topsoil
    ︎ Müggelsee

︎ Measurement    ︎ Schwerbelastungskörper
    ︎ Mining Earthquakes
    ︎ Low-tech Soil Testing
    ︎ Soil Texture Triangle
    ︎ Geologic Time Scale 
    ︎ Stratigraphic Colum
    ︎ Geographic Information System
    ︎ Ecotone
    ︎ Cultural Landscape

︎ Prototype
    ︎ Unter den Linden
    ︎ Zoological Landscape
    ︎ Counterculture
    ︎ Cultural Agency
    ︎ Mine-pit Lakes
    ︎ Parliament of Things

︎ Land distribution
    ︎ 1913 Natives Land Act
    ︎ District Six
    ︎ Eavesdropping
    ︎ Reconciliation Policy
    ︎ Land Grabbing
    ︎ Land Acting
    ︎ The Red Ants
    ︎ #PutSouthAfricansFirst
    ︎ Suburban Enclaves
    ︎ Parallel State

︎ Extraction
    ︎ Cullinan Diamond Mine
    ︎ Platinum Group Metals
    ︎ Zamazamas
    ︎ Gold Rush Inertia
    ︎ Sinkhole
    ︎ Maize Doctor
    ︎ Coal Hands

︎ Infrastructure
    ︎ Gautrain
    ︎ Le-guba
    ︎ Lesotho Water Project
    ︎ Deutscher Wald
    ︎ Arrival City

︎ Production
    ︎ Safari Economy
    ︎ Agritourism
    ︎ Rainfall Line
    ︎ Upington Airport
    ︎ Tiergarten Transformation
    ︎ Pivot Irrigation
    ︎ Allotment Garden
    ︎ Bokoni Terracing
    ︎ Johannesburg Forestation
    ︎ Game Farming Cycle

︎ Waste
    ︎ Trümmerberg
    ︎ Fab-Soil
    ︎ Mining Waste Belt
    ︎ Sanitary Landfilling
    ︎ Soil Structure
    ︎ Biogas Technology

︎ Pollution
    ︎ Dry Stacked Tailings
    ︎ Water Pollution
    ︎ Soil Pollution
    ︎ Uranium Sandstorms
    ︎ Poaching

︎ Remediation
    ︎ European Green Belt
    ︎ Conservation Agriculture
    ︎ Airfield Urbanism
    ︎ Solar Park
    ︎ Gold Reef City
    ︎ Mine Pit Lake
    ︎ Loess Plateau
    ︎ Erosion Control

Dry Stacked Tailings

“ — ”

Dry stacked tailings are artificial earthen mounds that have shaped the landscape of Johannesburg since the beginning of regional gold extraction in 1886. With a total of two-hundred-and-seventy facilities, these heaps are the result of storing filtered tailings, mining residue after gold ore was extracted.1 In total these tailing storage facilities contain up to six billion tons of waste, among them uranium, lead, arsenic and other heavy metals.2
        Even if they have become integrated into the South African landscape, tailing storage facilities pose a health risk to the more than two million residents that settled around and even on top of the tailings. These residences gradually expanded into a two-kilometer-wide buffer zone of tailings, as the city grew larger and larger, and as the mining regulations that established the boundary were not enforced.3
        The human body is affected not only by the dust that is scattered by the wind, but also by how these toxins are entering the underground aquifers. Moreover, the hazardous conditions of the mounds vary depending on the wind direction, which has pushed discriminated ethnic groups into the most unfavorable areas, such as the Soweto township , which is exposed to the toxic winds.
        The rising value of gold and technological developments have reawakened contemporary interest in the mines, and many companies are looking at the tailing storage facilities as sources of residual gold. As photographer Jason Larkin pointed out: “There is residual gold still in the dumps, basically because the original extraction process wasn’t as effective as it is now, companies are re-mining these dumps and making millions of dollars on that latent gold.”

Image source: Kneen, Melanie A., Matthew E. Ojelede, and Harold J. Annegarn. ‘Housing and Population Sprawl near Tailings Storage Facilities in the Witwatersrand: 1952 to Current’. South African Journal of Science 111, no. 11–12 (December 2015): 1–9.

1.   Twin Metals. ‘Dry Stack Tailings Storage’. Accessed 6 March 2022.
2.   Brook, Pete. ‘The Toxic Landscape of Johannesburg’s Gold Mines’. Wired.
3.   Kneen MA, Ojelede ME, Annegarn HJ. Housing and population sprawl near tailings storage facilities in the Witwatersrand: 1952 to current. S Afr J Sci. 2015;111(11/12), Art. #2014-0186, 9 pages. sajs.2015/20140186