Economic activity in modern-day South Africa has been centred on mining activities, their ancillary services and supplies. The country’s stock exchange in Johannesburg was established in 1887, a decade after the first diamonds were discovered on the banks of the Orange River, and almost simultaneously with the gold rush on the world-famous Witwatersrand.
In many ways South Africa’s political, social and economic landscape has been dominated by mining, given that, for so many years the sector has been the mainstay of the South African economy. Although gold, diamonds, platinum and coal are the most well-known amongst the minerals and metals mined, South Africa also hosts chrome, vanadium, titanium and a number of other lesser minerals.
Key mining facts:
- In 2014 the mining sector contributed R18 billion to the South African fiscus
- A total of 495,568 people were employed in the mining sector in 2014
- Each person employed in the mining sector has up to nine indirect dependents
- The mining sector has, for many years, attracted valuable foreign direct investment to South Africa
Major mining sectors in SA
The Witwatersrand Basin remains the world’s largest gold resource and has produced more than 2 billion ounces of gold to date. After 120 years of mining, operations in this area have reached depths of 4 000m, with the natural rock temperatures reach about 50°C. Read more...
Coal mining’s advent in South Africa can best be traced to the start of gold mining in the late 19th century, particularly on the Witwatersrand, with the first coal in appreciable tonnages being extracted on the Highveld coal field close to the nascent Witwatersrand gold mines. Read more...
In South Africa the discovery of the first platinum nuggets dates back to 1924. The geologist Hans Merensky’s follow-up work resulted in the discovery of two deposits, each around 100 kilometres in length, which became known as the Bushveld Igneous Complex. Read more...
While diamond mining has been taking in place in South Africa for almost a century and a half, the country’s diamond sector is far from reaching the end of its life. Developments at the country’s three largest mines are designed to expand their outputs and to extend their lives to anywhere between a quarter and a half a century. Read more...