South Africa’s mining sector is legendary, providing the bedrock upon which Africa’s most industrialised economy was built since the country’s first diamond and gold rushes in the late 1800s.
South Africa is a top global producer of a diverse range of minerals, including gold, coal, platinum, palladium, manganese, titanium and uranium. Mining in South Africa had an overall industry value of R 452.67 billion (USD 33.17 billion) in 2017, and accounted for roughly 60% of the country’s exports by value for the year.
And while South Africa's rich mineral deposits have been the focus of sustained, large-scale mining capitalisation for over 100 years, the sheer quantity of these bodies still provides an abundance of lucrative, diverse mining opportunities: the country’s PGM reserves, for example, are expected to last another 335 years, and its coal reserves 256 years.
Currently, mining projects in South Africa:
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The chance discovery of a diamond on the banks of the Orange River in 1867 would shape the trajectory of South Africa’s economic and socio-political development forever. These first diamond discoveries were alluvial, spread over a wide area far from any stream or river, initially found in yellow earth and then below in blue hard rock that would come to be called kimberlite, after the rapidly developing diamond mining town Kimberley. By the 1880s, the mines around Kimberley produced around 95% of the world diamonds.
Lucrative as this rapidly developing mineral industry was, it would soon come to be eclipsed by the discovery of gold in South Africa, on the farm of Langlaagte on the Witwatersrand by prospectors in 1886. Described as an ‘endless treasure of gold’ that ran for miles underground, this was the discovery of the world’s highest value reef, accounting for about 40% of the world’s total gold reserves. The country’s first appreciable tonnages of coal were also found in the Witwatersrand Basin around this time.
The sudden influx of fortune seekers, as well as all the stores and equipment infrastructure requirements for supporting this fledgling mining sector in South Africa, led to the rapid development of towns and villages in the area. Johannesburg, located initially on a short gap in the East-West running reef, was the focal point of these activities and would come to be known as the ‘City of Gold’. Today, Johannesburg is Africa’s primary financial hub, and is home to some of the world’s largest mining companies
The depth to which the reef extended below the surface saw deeper and deeper drilling across the deposit, resulting in increasingly mechanised, high-capital mining operations developing during the course of the 20th Century. These technological achievements would form the base from where profitable, efficient operations would extend to other minerals mined in South Africa as they were discovered.
The growth of the mining sector in South Africa led to a high demand for industrial support that would shape the South African economy and turn it into a mining powerhouse.
Mining in South Africa peaked in 1980, contributing 21% to the country’s economy in that year as the second-largest economic sector after manufacturing. And while mining in South Africa has since been overtaken by finance, government, trade and transport industries, it continues to be a critical economic activity as the sixth largest economic sector in the country representing 8% of the GDP. It employs around 500 000 individuals in the country, with PGM having the largest workforce, followed by gold and coal.
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.
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 platinum and gold beneficiation.
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.
South Africa boasts rich and diverse mineral resources, and is among the world’s top producers for many of these commodities.
South Africa’s mineral sales at the end of 2017 were as follows (in R million):
South Africa is the world’s largest producer of chrome (14 000 Mt), platinum group metals (193 t), manganese (4.7 million Mt) and vermiculite (210 000 t). South Africa is the world’s second largest producer of ilmenite (1.17 Mt), rutile (130 000 t) and zirconium (370 000 t).
About 40% of the world’s total gold reserves are found in the Witwatersrand area. Iron 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. Major coalfields are found in the Highveld and Lowveld regions of South Africa, with Witbank and Ermelo being the major mining hubs.
South Africa is the world’s leading vanadium supplier and produces almost 10 000 tonnes of vanadium oxide, 9 000 tonnes of ferrovanadium, and 70 000 tonnes of vanadium bearing slag. The Bushveld Complex, just north of the capital Pretoria, contains some of the largest known deposits of vanadiferous magnetite ore in the world.
Even after more than a century of mining in which it was the world’s preeminent gold producer, with 2 billion ounces of gold produced to date, South Africa is still estimated to hold gold reserves of 6 000 tons – second only to Australia.
Across the globe, where new discoveries of gold are becoming increasingly rare and in inhospitable locations, South Africa’s goldfields still offer excellent opportunities for gold miners
The Witwatersrand reef is now mined at over 4 km below the surface, with TauTona Mine (Western Deep No. 3 Shaft) and Mponeng Gold Mine near Carletonville the deepest mines in the world. These mines use some of the most efficient and sophisticated mining technologies and innovations available to allow profitable and successful mining of the comparatively low-grade ore found at such depths.
Today, gold mining in South Africa accounts for around 10% of global gold production.
Africa Mining IQ currently tracks 64 gold projects in South Africa along all phases of mine life:
For a complete, detailed list of gold mines in South Africa, contact Africa Mining IQ today! Call us on +27 11 830 2132+27 11 830 2132 or send us an enquiry.
Gold is found in the Witwatersrand Basin, on the Kaapvaal Craton. This basin stretches an arc of roughly 400 km across the Northwest, Free State and Gauteng provinces, with the gold occurring only along its northern and western edges.
South Africa’s gold production has been stable for the past few years, where it has averaged around 140 tons per annum. To date in 2017, sales of gold are valued at R 6.18 billion (USD 456 million).
Though there had been minor gold discoveries near present-day Roodepoort in 1884, the discovery of the main reef is conventionally credited to a prospector by the name of George Harrison, who made the findings on Langlaagte Farm in 1886.
The sixth biggest coal-exporting nation, producing around 260 tonnes per annum, the coal mining industry in South Africa is a large and developed complex, with reserves over 200 years. The coal fields around Witbank and Ermelo, in Mpumalanga province, have been the traditional hubs of coal mining in South Africa, though increasing emphasis is being placed on coal fields in the Limpopo province such as Waterberg.
South Africa’s coal is generally of medium ash content. Around 70 Mt of higher grade coal is exported per annum, primarily through the Richards Bay Coal Terminal, which has a sophisticated bulk materials handling and dedicated rail line infrastructure.
182.7 Mt of coal is consumed locally in South Africa, with the largest consumer being the state power utility Eskom, which has customised boiler hearths designed for low-grade, muddy coal. Coal supplies over 80% of Eskom’s total power requirements.
Looking for the ultimate in detailed, real time intelligence for coal mining in South Africa? Africa Mining IQ tracks and monitors 110 coal projects in the country across all phases of development:
The majority of these projects – 67 – continue to be based in Mpumalanga, with 19 in northern KwaZulu-Natal, 14 in Limpopo, and a smaller number of mines in Gauteng, North West, Free State and the Eastern Cape.
South Africa’s first diamond was discovered in 1867 near Hopetown, in the Karoo, and weighed 21.25 carats. Two years later, diamonds were found in lucrative concentrations around Kimberly, in diamond matrixes that came to be called kimberlites.
These same matrixes were also found in the Transvaal, with the Cullinan and Venetia mines being world-famous diamond producers, including the world’s largest gem-quality rough diamond, the Cullinan Diamond, which weighed 3 106 carats.
South Africa is the world’s fourth largest producer of diamonds, with production around 8.15 Mct of diamonds annually – 7.79 Mct of which continue to be derived from kimberlite. Smaller marine mining operations yield approximately 27 302 ct per year. In 2014, R8.88 billion worth of diamonds were sold locally, with R7.73 billion being exported.
Africa Mining IQ tracks and monitors 41 diamond projects in South Africa across all stages of development:
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Platinum mining in South Africa accounts for about 80% of the world’s total supplies, and its palladium represents around 40% of the world’s gross production. PGM is concentrated in the 2 billion-year old Bushveld Igneous Complex, especially in complexes found in the Limpopo and North West provinces.
The first platinum nuggets were discovered in South Africa in 1924. Follow up work by geologist Hans Merensky around Mashishing (Lydenburg) located two PGM deposits, each around 100 km in length.
The platinum mining industry in South Africa has increased production from 163 tons in 2010 to almost 200 tons in 2017, with total sales of over R 9 billion. Africa Mining IQ currently tracks 82 platinum projects across South Africa across all stages of development:
34 of these platinum projects are located in Limpopo; 30 in North West; 11 in Mpumalanga; 3 in Gauteng; and 1 in the Free State province.
Africa Mining IQ lists 342 new mining projects in South Africa on its database. These include:
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