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Mining in South Africa

Mining in South Africa directly contributed to the establishment of the
Johannesburg Stock Exchange in the late 19th century, and today it still accounts
for a third of its market capitalisation. It is clear how much mining in South Africa has
shaped the country politically, culturally, and economically.

The Jwaneng mine is expected to yield 102 million carats during the expansion project
The Jwaneng mine is expected to yield 102 million carats during the expansion project

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The discovery of the first diamond on the banks of the Orange River in 1867 was the spark that ignited the explosion of mining in South Africa. By 1886, gold and diamond rushes were quickly turning mining in South Africa into the nation’s staple economy. The South African mining industry was characterised by a sudden influx of fortune seekers; which resulted in harsh and unkind living conditions. These pioneers, while developing early South African infrastructure, were creating the basis for massive future wealth creation through mining in South Africa.

The potential for mining in South Africa, including the discovery of the world’s largest gold deposits in Witwatersrand, triggered what is now called the South African War, or Anglo-Boer War, which led to the annexation of South Africa under the British Empire from 1910 to 1961. During this time, the techniques for mining in South Africa improved: Having living canaries for gas-detectors and other dangerous labour practices became obsolete as mining in South Africa advanced to include sophisticated ventilation and, eventually, chemical extraction of minerals from low-grade ore. The growth of mining in South Africa led to a high demand for industrial support and, as a result, it shaped the South African economy and turned it into a mining country.

Gold mining in South AfricaIn 1970, gold mining in South Africa peaked, contributing 68 per cent of global production for that year. By 2001, mining in South Africa had produced a total of 51 per cent of global platinum group metals ever mined. Today, mining in South Africa is still playing a significant role in the development and history of South Africa; both as a country, and as a leading economy on the African continent.

Today, South Africa is the world’s largest producer of chrome, manganese, platinum, vanadium, and vermiculite. South Africa is the world’s second largest producer of ilmenite, palladium, rutile, and zirconium. This shows that mining in South Africa still contributes significantly to the country’s economy, and demonstrates the importance of South Africa on a global mineral production scale.

The South African mining sector has provided the critical mass for a number of industries that are either suppliers to the mining industry, or users of its products. These include energy, financial services, water and engineering services, and specialist seismic geological and metallurgical services.

Currently, mining in South Africa:

  • contributes an average of 20% to South Africa’s GDP, of which about 50% is contributed directly.
  • boasts a total annual income of nearly R550 billion.
  • is one of the country’s major employers, with more than one million people in mining-related employment.
  • is the largest contributor by value to black economic empowerment in the economy.
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South Africa’s Mineral Riches
South Africa is currently the world’s largest producer of chrome, platinum group metals, manganese, vanadium, and vermiculite. South Africa is the world’s second largest producer of ilmenite, palladium, rutile, and zirconium. This variety and quantity of mineral deposits across South Africa make it, foremost, a mining country. In 2009, mining in South Africa reached sales of about 241 Billion Rand.

The main raw minerals mined are:

Currently, mining in South Africa accounts for over 10 per cent of global gold production. South Africa is also the world’s fourth largest producer of diamonds.

About 40% of the world’s total gold reserves are found in the Witwatersrand area. Mining here is expensive since deposits lie at such great depths. South Africa boasts some of the world’s deepest gold mines, with depths exceeding 3,5km.

Mining in South Africa | Gold Mining in South AfricaIron ore is mined in Sishen and Thabazimbi, and more than 80% of South Africa’s output comes from these areas. The north western part of South Africa is famous for platinum and diamond mining. This area accounts for more than 90% of South Africa’s platinum production. Five of the largest platinum-producing mines are located in the Rustenburg area. Diamonds are mined mainly in Koster, Lichtenburg, Bloemhof and Christiana.

As a coal producer, South Africa currently ranks 5th globally, producing an average of 224 million tonnes of marketable coal each year. Major coalfields are found in the Highveld and Low-veld regions of South Africa, with Witbank and Ermelo being the major mining hubs. Coal provides almost 80% of South Africa’s primary energy needs.

South Africa is the world's leading vanadium supplier and produces almost 10 million kg of vanadium oxide, 9 million kg of ferrovanadium, and 70 000 tonnes of vanadium bearing slag. The Bushveld Complex, just north of Pretoria, contains some of the largest known deposits of vanadiferous magnetite ore in the world.

Mining in South Africa | Gold Mining in South AfricaLeading Industry

As a major role-player globally, mining in South Africa boasts a high level of technical and production expertise, as well as wide-ranging research and development activities. The country has world-scale primary processing facilities, covering carbon steel, stainless steel, and aluminium in addition to gold and platinum.

Two of the world’s largest mining companies have their origins in South Africa. BHP Billiton was the result of a merger between South Africa’s Billiton and the Australian BHP Group. Anglo American Plc., with a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and secondary listing in Johannesburg, owns many major subsidiaries, including Anglo Platinum, Anglo Coal, Impala Platinum and Kumba Iron Ore.


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