South Africa had long been the world’s most dominant country for gold mining. While gold mining is still going strong in the country, it is nowhere near as popular as it used to be. This is in spite of the strong history that South Africa has in the gold mining industry.
South Africa had been a very popular place for the mining of precious metals since the mid-nineteenth century when the Kimberley diamond mine was discovered. It would not be until the 1880s when gold was first found. It was found in the Witwatersrand area in the Gauteng Province.
The Witwatersrand Gold Rush of 1886 helped bring South Africa to prominence. The Golden Arc of gold deposits was believed to have once been an inland lake and that gold deposits settled into the region over time. The demand for gold mining activities in the area eventually led to the foundation of Johannesburg, a settlement that has since become South Africa’s largest city. This also led to the Second Boer War in 1899 as political disputes became more prevalent.
Gold mining activities became popular in South Africa throughout the twentieth century although the mining numbers have declined in recent time. In 1970, South Africa had been mining about 1,000 metric tons of gold each year. That total fell to 650 metric tons per year around the end of the decade. Today, South Africa is mining a little less than 200 metric tons of gold each year.
For many decades, South Africa was by far the world’s leading producer of gold. Today, it ranks as only the 7th largest producer, as the richest ores have been worked out.
The East Rand Mine in Boksburg, a city just east of Johannesburg, is noteworthy for being one of the deepest gold mines in the world. It is about 11,700 feet deep. The mine has been active since 1893 although production levels have declined to below 80,000 ounces per year.
The TauTona Mine in Carletonville is only a few feet shallower than the East Rand Mine. Also located near Johannesburg, this mine has been in operation since 1962. It is getting about 190,000 ounces of gold each year although it was getting about half a million ounces in 2005.
The Kloof mine in Westonaria is also a popular place for mining with nearly ten thousand workers operating in the mine on a daily basis. However, it is estimated that this mine will close around 2033 based on current trends in the region.
The Witwatersrand Basin continues to be a popular region of South Africa to look into as nearly a third of all the gold that has ever been mined in the world has come from it. This is in spite of companies having to go deep to actually find gold today.
The Future of Mining
The reduction in gold deposits within South Africa has made it to where the country’s gold mining industry could be in serious jeopardy. The rise in electrical costs for mining operations in the country and the decline in the value of gold and other precious minerals within South Africa over the years have only made things worse.
Companies are also resorting to the use of high-end forms of technology to find gold deposits. This comes as the use of hand tools and dynamite has been deemed to be either obsolete or inefficient by most mining companies. The use of technology, particularly in the form of mining drones and other massive devices has only forced mining companies to spend more money on mining practices than what they can afford to handle.
Whether or not South Africa will rebound and start to become more powerful in the world of gold mining is unclear. South Africa’s gold economy is still strong but it is clearly a shadow of its former self.