This week's image is of an aluminum can -- of what appears to be Windhoek beer -- that has been eaten through by the acidity of the surrounding soil. I made this photograph next to the side of a busy road, where the ground is white from iron pyrite and other minerals and metals dumped as mining waste products.
According to AngloGold Ashanti -- the world's third-largest gold producer -- as well as academic studies, there exist 6,000 square kilometers of degraded soil in the Witwatersrand Basin near Johannesburg. This data comes from research completed in 2003, but many such statistics do not exist year-by-year because they are research funding-dependent.
However, the lack of proper remediation guarantees this soil is far from usable today, not to mention the 30,000 square kilometers in the region overlying polluted groundwater. In gold production, the amount of waste is 200,000X that of the final product. That means that to produce one standard size gold bar (12.4kg), rock equivalent to the weight of about 1,630 Hyundai Sonatas is produced as waste.