Mining and Natural Resources
The country is renowned for an abundance of mineral resources, accounting for a significant proportion of both world production and reserves, and South African mining companies dominate many sectors in the global industry. Mining and quarrying contributed 4.9% to GDP in 2013.
- South Africa is the world’s biggest producer of gold and platinum and one of the leading producers of base metals and coal.
- The country’s diamond industry is the fourth-largest in the world, with only Botswana, Canada and Russia producing more diamonds each year.
- Although well over a century old, South Africa’s mining industry is far from fully tapped. The country is a treasure trove, with mineral deposits only matched by some countries of the former Soviet Union.
- South Africa – while holding the world’s largest reserves of gold, platinum-group metals and manganese ore – has considerable potential for the discovery of other world-class deposits in areas yet to be exhaustively explored.
- The country produces 10% of the world’s gold, and has 40% of the world’s known resources. It is estimated that 36 000 tons of undeveloped resources – about one third of the world’s unmined gold – still remains.
- The sector spans the full spectrum of the five major mineral categories – namely precious metals and minerals, energy minerals, non-ferrous metals and minerals, ferrous minerals and industrial minerals.
Apart from its prolific mineral reserves, South Africa’s strengths include a high level of technical and production expertise, and comprehensive research and development activities.
The country has world-scale primary processing facilities covering carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminium – in addition to gold and platinum. With the growth of South Africa’s secondary and tertiary industries, as well as a decline in gold production, mining’s contribution to South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) has declined over the past few decades. However, this may be offset by an increase in the downstream or beneficiated minerals industry, which the government has targeted as a growth sector.
Lucrative opportunities exist for downstream processing and adding value locally to iron, carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminium, platinum group metals and gold.
A wide range of materials is available for jewellery – including gold, platinum, diamonds, tiger’s eye and a variety of other semi-precious stones.
The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002 has opened the doors to meaningful participation of black people in the exploration and exploitation of mineral resources. The Act enshrines equal access to mineral resources, irrespective of race, gender or creed. When the Act was passed, there was only one junior mining company. By mid-2008, there were 21. South Africa’s mining industry is continually expanding and adapting to changing local and international world conditions, and remains a cornerstone of the economy, making a significant contribution to economic activity, job creation and foreign exchange earnings.