South Africa has a long and rich history of mining. In fact, the nation has been built around the industry, pushing our economy forward over the years. In 2006, South Africa was the biggest gold producer in the world. Things were steadily on the rise, but recent events have put the future of mining on unsteady ground. Chamber of Mines president Mike Teke is however still hopeful. Read on to find out why South Africa is still the best place in the world for mining operations.
A long and productive history
Mining is the reason South Africa is the largest economy in Africa. It started in 1867 when diamonds were discovered along the Orange River. The discovery was made by Erasmus Jacobs, and it started the long history of large scale mining in the country. A few years later mining operations began in Kimberley. In terms of gold mining, discoveries were first made in Pilgrim’s Rest and Barberton, before the biggest discovery was made at the Main Reef. This was at Gerhardus Oosthuizen’s farm in Langlaagte in 1886. This sparked the biggest gold rush, known at the Witwatersrand Gold Rush.
South Africa has built up its mining industry to the point where it is on the lists of top producers of mining products in the world. It holds the number six spot for gold producers, and as of 2012 was the number one platinum producer in the world. It is also one of the biggest producers of uranium and coal.
The threats to mining’s future
Recently there have been two stand-out instances that have threatened the mining industry in South Africa. The first of which was Marikana, a strike which occurred in 2012 and the subsequent massacre that occurred during the strike. On 16 August 2012, security forces opened fire on civilians. It has been compared to the Sharpeville massacre and is the most lethal attack from security forces on civilians since 1960.
The second major threat has been the recent platinum strike. It lasted for five months, causing major mining companies to shut down some of their efforts. It has caused unease in the industry, and most recently it has been reported that the country’s platinum index hit a 14 month low.
We must remain hopeful
Mike Teke said in August that South Africa remains the best mining address. He said that steps needed to be taken to build the industry going forward whilst also “acknowledging past wrongs”. He was speaking at the opening of the two day long Mining Lekgotla in Midrand. Teke went on to say, “The past we acknowledge, the future we’ll build together.” The event was started three years ago as a way for the government, businesses and labour to come together and have strategic conversations about the state of the mining industry in the country.