Mining in South Africa has been the main driving force behind the history and development of Africa’s most advanced and richest economy, after Nigeria. Large scale and profitable mining started with the discovery of adiamond on the banks of the Orange River in 1867 by Erasmus Jacobs and the subsequent discovery and exploitation of the Kimberley pipes a few years later. Gold rushes to Pilgrim’s Rest and Barberton were precursors to the biggest discovery of all, the Main Reef/Main Reef Leader on Gerhardus Oosthuizen’s farm Langlaagte, Portion C, in 1886, the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and the subsequent rapid development of the gold field there, the biggest of them all.
Diamond and gold production may now be well down from their peaks, though South Africa is still number 5 in gold but South Africa remains a cornucopia of mineral riches. It is the world’s largest producer of chrome, manganese, platinum, vanadium andvermiculite. It is the second largest producer of ilmenite, palladium, rutile and zirconium. It is also the world’s third largest coal exporter. South Africa is also a huge producer of iron ore; in 2012, it overtook India to become the world third biggest iron ore supplier to China, who are the world’s largest consumers of iron ore.
Due to a history of corruption and maladministration in the South African mining sector, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe announced at the beginning of 2013 that mining companies misrepresenting their intentions could have their licences revoked.