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VBKOM Mining Engineers discuss South African Mining History

VBKOM Mining Engineers discuss South African Mining History

The 1970’s marked a decade that saw South African mining forge ahead in its influence on the economy and employment.

However, how has the economy in general, and the mining industry in particular, shifted since then?

In the 1970’s, mining’s contribution to total economic production climbed and peaked at 21% in 1980. Simply put, to every R100 the South African economy produced that year, R21 was due to the mining industry.

Furthermore, employment in the mining industry peaked in 1987 at just over 760 000 individuals.

South African Mining History - Mining Engineers South Africa

Undeniably, there were many industries contributing to the South African economy. When comparing the South African economy in 1980 to our current economy, it’s easy to see how vastly different they are. Examples of this can be seen in the image below.

South African Mining History - Mining Engineers South Africa

In 1980, the mining industry was the second most influential industry, contributing 21% to the gross domestic product (GDP). Whereas in 2016, the industry only contributed 8%.

In recent years, the primary and secondary sectors have declined, giving way to tertiary industries such as finance and government, which can be seen rising in the above image.

However, although the mining industry has declined over the years, it is still one of South Africa’s important employers.

According to Stats SA, the mining workforce was estimated at 490 146 individuals in 2015. The largest workforce is employed by the PGM (platinum group metals) industry, followed by the gold and coal industries.

South African Mining History - Mining Engineers South Africa

This may be surprising because South Africa is predominantly known for its gold. However, gold production has declined over the decades.

Moreover, Stats SA’s recent Environmental Economic Accounts Compendium, which can be seen in the image below, estimated that South Africa only has 39 years of available gold resources remaining, while PGMs still have 335 years and coal reserves 256 years.

Platinum Group Metals include:

  • Platinum,
  • Osmium,
  • Iridium,
  • Ruthenium,
  • Rhodium,
  • Palladium.

Additionally, the report indicates that in 2006 the gold mining industry gave way to PGMs as the largest employer.

South African Mining History - Mining Engineers South Africa

VBKOM – Mining Engineers South Africa

Industries have changed drastically since the 1970s. With modern technology ever evolving, the world is a very different place, with new obstacles and opportunities.

What will South Africa’s economy look like in a few years from now? What role will the South African mining industry play? When you partner with VBKOM, it doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Our team of expert and experienced consultants will guide and support you throughout the process of gearing up for the future and being able to face it head on.

VBKOM mining engineers and consultants have been involved in several mining projects throughout South Africa and Africa alike, namely:

For more information about our engineering consultants or our mining engineering services, please contact us.

*Statistics and images taken from Stats SA.



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African Mining, Mining Engineering


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