South African Mining – From eGoli to the World
Most of modern-day South Africa’s economic activity has been focused on mining activities. In 2018 alone, the industry made a contribution of $349.42 billion to the country’s GDP. The main mining sectors in South Africa are coal, platinum, gold, and diamonds.
Minerals:Diamonds, gold, coal, iron ore, chrome, copper, emerald, fluorspar, ilmenite, lead, manganese, nickel, phosphate, silica, tin, vanadium, uranium, zinc and zircon.
Independence: 31 May 1910
Area: 1,221,037 km2
Mining fact: The Witwatersrand Basin in South Africa is the largest gold resource in the world. This is also where the world’s deepest gold mine is found – the Mponeng Gold Mine, which is over four kilometers deep.
History of South African Mining
Mining in South Africa started when the first copper mine was established in the Northern Cape Province in the early 1850s. In 1867, the first diamond was discovered in Hopetown, after which diamond mines were established in Kimberley, also in the Northern Cape. Towards the end of 1870, gold was discovered outside Polokwane in the Limpopo Province.
Coal Mining in South Africa
Coal mining in South Africa started in the 19th century in Witwatersrand around the same time as the start of gold mining. Around 70% of the coal mined in South Africa is used for local power generation and the rest, which is of higher quality, is exported. The coal mining industry represents around 19% of total employment in the South African mining sector. The country is believed to have sufficient coal reserves to satisfy its needs for over a century.
Platinum Mining in South AfricaPlatinum was discovered in South Africa in 1924. Geologist Hans Merensky followed up and found other deposits, each around 100 kilometers long. The area was named the Bushveld Igneous Complex. After securing 23 claims, the Merensky Reef was established. Since World War Two, platinum mining in South Africa has been growing exponentially. As of early 2020, over 75% of the world’s output is produced there.
Gold Mining in South Africa
The discovery of gold in South Africa in the 19th century sparked the development of eGoli (City of Gold), which is the name in Zulu for Johannesburg. Even though South African gold only accounts for 4.2% of global gold production, it is still home to the world’s largest gold resource—the Witwatersrand Basin, which stretches over an arc of around 400 kilometers across three provinces of South Africa.
Diamond Mining in South Africa
The very first diamond discovered in South Africa was found in Hopetown on the banks of the Orange River and diamonds were initially mined from alluvial deposits found in such riverine areas. In later years, underground mining and recovery of diamonds became the more common method of diamond extraction. By 2019, South Africa produced 7.2 million carats of diamonds. De Beers, which is a name that dominates the diamond industry all over the world, was originally founded in South Africa by Cecil Rhodes in 1888.