Authorities say 90 percent of murders in Durban Deep outside Johannesburg are linked to illegal gold mining.
Johannesburg, South Africa – Making her rounds on a bright spring morning, Cora Bailey brakes sharply and points at a cross-breed dog with thick chestnut fur and a missing hind leg. “This is Snoopy,” Bailey says, as the dog, true to her name, snoops through a putrid mound of rubbish amidst the long grass that lines the roadside.
“She literally took a bullet to protect her owner. Unfortunately, we couldn’t save her leg,” Bailey says. “Even the dogs aren’t safe here.” She sighs, lights a cigarette and drives on.
Fifteen years ago, Bailey, who has deep smile lines and a sharp sardonic wit, founded the CLAW animal welfare clinic here in Durban Deep, a defunct Victorian-era gold mine on the western flank of Johannesburg, South Africa’s famous “city of gold”.
Today, Bailey’s clinic continues to stand as an enduring place of sanctuary for animals like Snoopy, even as a bloody resources conflict has engulfed this forgotten mining town, often catching local residents in the crossfire.
“There have been so many dead bodies,” Bailey told Al Jazeera. “I’ve lost count.” Formerly nicknamed the Grand Old Lady in mining circles, Durban Deep officially ceased its operations in 2001.
But the 12-million ounces of gold still believed to be un-mined in the area have drawn thousands of low-income migrants, mostly from Zimbabwe and Lesotho. Many have moved into Durban Deep’s abandoned bungalows on leafy streets once inhabited by wealthy white mine employees.