South Africa’s gold industry has been the principal focus of black economic empowerment, resulting in a changing ownership structure. Leading the empowerment movement in recent years has been Harmony Gold Mining Company which has merged with ARMgold which is owned by African Rainbow Minerals.
South Africa is the world’s largest gold producer, marking the lowest production level since 1956. In 2003 gold production fell by an estimated 6.5% to 373,074 kg, however gold still accounted for an estimated 37% of dollar export revenue within the country. 95% of South Africa’s gold mines are underground operations, reaching depths of over 3.8 km. Coupled with declining grades, increased depth of mining and a slide in the gold price, costs have begun to rise and as a result production has been steadily falling. However, in order to cut costs, mines have undergone major business re structuring and have reduced costs dramatically. Unfortunately, this process involved several thousand workers being retrenched.
The future of the gold industry in South Africa depends on increased productivity. South Africa as the world’s largest producer of gold, is more exposed than any other country to slumps in price because its deep level mines are the highest cost producers in the world. South Africa’s gold mines have the highest production costs in the industry.
Gold is the largest mineral foreign income earner in South Africa, contributing 27.4% in mineral revenues. The gold industry is also responsible for 56% of South Africa’s mine labour force.
South Africa’s has enormous gold ore reserves, estimated at 40 000t, representing 40% of global reserves. South Africa’s main gold producing area is concentrated on the Archaean Witwatersrand Basin. The Witwatersrand basin, which has been mined for more than 100 years and has produced more than 41 000 t of gold, remains the greatest unmined source of gold in the world. Major new projects, new technology, new approaches to the organisation of work, better labour relations and some commercial innovations are starting to reshape this industry.
Unlike most other gold deposits in the world, the Witwatersrand (“Wits”) is a gold placer deposit, with gold being hosted by conglomerates and grits. The Wits sedimentary basin is massive and stretches through an arc of approximately 400km across the Free State, North West and Gauteng Provinces. The gold bearing conglomerates or reefs are generally tabular with varying dips. Most of the Wits basin is covered by later stage sediments of the Ventersdorp and Karoo groups, with the Wits outcropping in Johannesburg, which started the Wits gold rush over a hundred years ago and resulted in formation of the city of Johannesburg.
South Africa does have other smaller gold producers outside of the Wits, in the form of Archaean greenstone belts. The main gold producing greenstone belts are the Barberton Greenstone Belt and the Kraaipan greenstone belt. The Barberton greenstone belt is situated in the Mpumalanga province, just north of Swaziland. The Kraaipan belt is located west of Johannesburg, near Kuruman. Other smaller belts exist in the Northern Province, but have been worked sporadically.
The South African gold mining industry in 2002 was driven by the rand’s weakness against the dollar and the resulting increase in the rand price of gold, however, in 2003 the rand:dollar exchange rate had an adverse effecr on costs and revenues with many companies reporting decreases in profit. Metorex reported a headline loss of 12,18c per share for the haplf year to December 2003.
The development of the South Deep Mine (owned jointly by Western Areas and Placer Dome). This mine is a southerly extension to the Western Area Gold Mine, and contains measured and indicated reserves of 78.9 million ounces of gold in 541 million tonnes grading 4.5 g/t gold.
Currently a 2.4 km shaft is being sunk to intersect haulage’s developed from the Western Areas mine to the north. Avgold are currently developing the Target orebody (estimated total resource of 6.5 Moz), situated in the Free State Province. Similar to South Deep, the orebody is being accessed by haulages developed from Avgold’s Lorraine Gold Mine. AngloGold are investigating using deep level mining technology to develop the Ultra Deeps orebody, situated at 5km depth. The orebody is currently down dip from Harmony Gold’s Elandsrand mine.
Due to the numerous changes in control and mergers that have occurred in the South African Gold Industry, many of the traditional names have been rendered redundant. South Africa’s major gold producers (producing more than 1Moz annually) are AngloGold, Gold Fields, Harmony and Durban Roodepoort Deep (DRD). Numerous other gold mines exist, operated by Avgold, JCI Gold and African Rainbow Minerals. Due to the numerous changes in control and mergers that have occurred in the South African Gold Industry, many of the traditional names have been rendered redundant.
Consolidation of South Africa’s mining industry has become a key issue in order to maintain the industry as a leading gold producer globally. Most of South Africa’s goldfields have been split up according to the current mineral rights holders, although the orebody being exploited is essentially the same. In order to extract the orebody effectively, South African producers will have to devise methods in which the “farm fences” dividing their properties can be eliminated, leading to a more economically method of mining and extraction to the benefit of all parties concerned. A similar scenario exists in Nevada, where Rio Tinto and Barrick have a similar arrangement. Currently, South Africa’s gold production is dominated by Anglo Gold, Gold Fields and Harmony (and to a lesser extent DRD). Anglo Gold has already began the consolidation process through the sale of several of its older mines in the North West and Free State Provinces to Harmony Gold. Further consolidation in the Free State Goldfields continued in 2001, with AngloGold selling off its Free State assets to a Joint Venture (called Freegold) between Harmony and African Rainbow Minerals (ARM). Talks are also underway between Gold Fields and Harmony over some of Gold Fields’s assets in the Free State.
African Rainbow Minerals
African Rainbow Minerals Ltd
Anglo American plc
AngloGold Ashanti Ltd
AngloGold Ashanti’s South African operations consist of several wholly owned mining facilities situated near the towns of Klerksdorp, Orkney and Carltonville as well as the East Rand area.
Gold Fields Limited South Africa
South Africa is the base of Gold Fields gold mining activities. Gold Fields has seven wholly owned mining operations in the country, of which three (Beatrix, St Helena and Oryx) are located in the Free State Gold fields and four (Driefontein, Leeudoorn, Libanon and Kloof) located along the West Rand Goldfields in South Africa.
Harmony Gold Mining Company Ltd
Harmony operates several underground and surface mining operations in South Africa. All of Harmony’s gold operations are located on the Witwatersrand, with a single operation at Kalgold on the Kraaipan greenstone belt.
Placer Dome Inc.
The South Deep Mine (of which Placer Dome has purchased a 50% interest) is considered as one of the world’s largest undeveloped gold deposits.
Ridge Mining (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd
Cluff Mining SA operates the Agnes gold mine located near Barberton in Mpumalanga.
Western Areas Limited
Western Areas has a 50% interest in the South Deep gold project.
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