For What It's Worth

Dillon Marsh

2014 - 2016

Whether they are active or long dormant, mines speak of a combination of sacrifice and gain. Their features are crude, unsightly scars on the landscape - unlikely feats of hard labour and specialised engineering, constructed to extract value from the earth but also exacting a price.

These images combine photography and computer generated elements in an effort to visualise the output of the mining industry of South Africa. The CGI spheres represent scale models of the materials removed from the ground. By doing so, the intention is to create a kind of visualisation of the merits and shortfalls of this industry that has shaped the history and economy of the country so radically.

South Africa's first ever commercial mine, a copper mine in Springbok, began operating in 1852. More mines soon opened as other rich copper deposits were discovered. By 2007, however, most of these mines had run their course and production had stopped almost completely. Several mine pits can still be seen, but the underground shafts are now submerged below the water table.

Gold was later discovered in 1886 along a geological formation known as the Witwatersrand Basin. Seven separate gold fields have been established here, with mines descending up to 4 km below the surface. I’ve represented the total volume of gold extracted from each of these gold fields.

The platinum mining industry is the youngest explored in this series, but it has left an indelible mark on the country’s recent history. These images were taken at the now infamous hillock at Marikana, where police opened fire on a group of striking mineworkers on 16 August 2012, killing 34 men and injuring 78 others. Against this backdrop, I’ve placed the total national output of all six of the platinum group metals since mining operations began in 1924.

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  • Tweefontein Mine - 38,500 tonnes of copper

  • West O'okiep Mine - 284,000 tonnes of copper

  • Jubilee Mine - 6,500 tonnes of copper

  • Blue Mine - 3,500 tonnes of copper

  • Palabora Mine - 4.1 million tonnes of copper

  • Nababeep South Mine - 302,500 tonnes of copper

  • Copperton Mine - 462,500 tonnes of copper, 934,500 tonnes of zinc, and 1,000 tonnes of silver

  • West Rand Gold Field - 102 million troy ounces of gold

  • Free State Gold Field - 335 million troy ounces of gold

  • East Rand Gold Field - 319 million troy ounces of gold

  • Far West Rand Gold Field - 349 million troy ounces of gold

  • Central Rand Gold Field - 250 million troy ounces of gold

  • Evander Gold Field - 49 million troy ounces of gold

  • Klerksdorp Gold Field - 209 million troy ounces of gold

  • Ruthenium - 19 million troy ounces

  • Rhodium - 13 million troy ounces

  • Osmium - 3 million troy ounces

  • Palladium - 66 million troy ounces

  • Iridium - 4 million troy ounces

  • Platinum - 136 million troy ounces