South Africa is one of the world’s richest countries when it comes to mineral reserves thanks to its abundance and variety of mineral resources. In addition to being home to the world’s largest hand-dug mine, South Africa also has the deepest gold mine globally. Minerals such as diamonds, gold, copper, palladium, platinum, and silver, have been dominating the political, social and economic landscape of South Africa over the years.
But where did it all start?
The mining industry can be traced back to 1852, when the first copper mine was established in the Northern Cape. Fifteen years later, in 1867, the first diamond was discovered in Hopetown. More diamond mines were established in the Northern Cape, especially in the town of Kimberley where mining resumed for 33 years. During this time, the site subsequently yielded 2,722kg of diamonds, extracted from more than 22.5 million tons of excavated earth. By 2019, South Africa produced a staggering number of 7.2 million carats of diamonds.
The discovery of gold followed shortly after, towards the end of 1870 gold was discovered outside Polokwane. But the golden ticket to wealth was the find of 1886 on the Witwatersrand reef. which This sparked the development of the city of Johannesburg, also known as ‘eGoli’, the Zulu name meaning as City of Gold.
Around the same time as the gold rush, coal mining started in the Eastern Cape. As the country entered industrialisation from 1939 during World War II, the demand for coal grew significantly. As a result, the industry represents about 19% of total employment in the South African mining sector today.
Platinum – one of the most well-known minerals mined in South Africa alongside diamonds, gold and coal – was discovered in 1924. It should be noted that currently more than 75% of the world’s output of platinum hails from South Africa.
In terms of world market capitalisation for mining companies, South African-listed mining equities accounted for half of it in 1980. It had a track record of rich, long-life and a plethora of mineral deposits. The mining sector is the mainstay of the South African economy and also key players in the global industry. Subsequently, it attracts valuable foreign direct investment year after year. In terms of GDP-value, it is estimated that South Africa has one of the largest mining sectors in the world. And thanks to its mineral diversity offerings it counts for a great portion in market capitalisation of the JSE (Johannesburg Stock Exchange).
Mining continues to economically transform the country to this day. In addition to having the deepest min in the world, Mponeng Gold Mine at more than 4 km, South African minerals also have royal status. The largest diamond ever found, a 3 106 carat Cullinan, is now part of the Crown Jewels of the British Royal Family. The rich mineral industry of South Africa unquestionably still sparkles, shimmers and glitters.