Mining industry in South Africa - Statistics & Facts

South Africa is incredibly rich in natural resources, with large reserves of some of the most valuable minerals on the planet found below its surface. Industrial scale mining in South Africa began in the 1850’s with the establishment of the first copper mine. Soon after in 1867, diamonds were discovered in Hopetown, and in 1870 gold was discovered. Since then, the mining industry has become hugely important to the country, contributing roughly 13.5 billion U.S. dollars each year to South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Precious metals in South Africa

Some of the most well-known commodities produced in South Africa are precious metals such as platinum and gold. South Africa is home to the Witwatersrand Basin, which holds the world’s largest known gold reserves. Although South Africa has the highest gold production in Africa, it is significantly lower than other gold producing countries worldwide such as China and Australia. South Africa once had the greatest gold mining market share in the world, but output has declined massively since the 1970’s. Politics, high costs, and trade union action are some of the reasons for this decline, as well as shifts towards Platinum group metals (PGMs). In 2019, PGMs were the most produced minerals in South Africa, at roughly 263 million metric tons. This made it the largest platinum producing country worldwide. The platinum sector has the highest number of employees in South Africa’s mining industry, employing twice the number of gold mining and coal mining employees.

Coal mining in South Africa

Coal mining in South Africa began around the same time as gold mining and is one of the country’s most valuable commodities, accounting for a quarter of mineral mining revenue in 2020. Proved coal reserves in South Africa amount to approximately 9.9 billion metric tons, with the largest of the country’s deposits found in the Ecca group, which covers 50 percent of South Africa’s land surface. A number of the world’s biggest mining companies operate in South Africa, such as Anglo American. However, Anglo American is exploring the sale of its South African coal mining assets as it moves away from mining thermal coal.

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Mining industry in South Africa

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