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Sunday, June 8th, 2003

Johannesburg, South Africa.

City Of Gold

Even the streets are made of gold!

In the morning, Premasindhu Prabhu drives Goswami and me into the city from the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Ashram in Lenasia on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

Johannesburg — known locally, colloquially, as Joburg — is the largest city in South Africa, with a population of 800,000. It was founded in 1886 after the discovery of gold, and is therefore called eGoli, the "City of Gold," by the indigenous Africans.

There are still many mine-dumps, yellow hills of gold, dotted around the city. Decades ago, when the price of gold was artificially fixed at $US30 an ounce, it was not profitable to extract every last grain of gold out of the ore, so the processed gold ore was just dumped in piles outside the mine entrances.

In an effort to get rid of the mine dumps, some of the processed ore was mixed with the aggregate used to construct the highways. However, when the price of gold soared to $US700 an ounce in the eighties, it became economically viable to reprocess the mine dumps to extract every last valuable grain of gold from the ore.

So the streets of Johannesburg may not be paved with gold (like the streets of London in the Dick Whittington fairy tale) but they do have the unique distinction of being paved on gold!

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