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The Mining of Gold and Uranium
Although South Africa is no longer the world’s largest gold producer and is now ranked sixth in the world, the gold and uranium mining sector is one of the largest components of the domestic mining industry on the basis of employment and export earnings. During 2016, South Africa produced 165.6t of gold, exported 103.7t worth R60.6bn and employed 116,479 people. The country was the world’s eleventh-largest producer of uranium in 2016 and it has reasonably assured uranium resources of 237,600t or 6.9% of the world total.
The current decrease in production has reduced gold’s contribution to the country’s economy. According to Statistics South Africa, gold contributed 3.8% to GDP in 1993, dropping to 1.2% in 2015. The issues contributing to the continued fall in production include the increasing depth of operations, continued declines in productivity, ageing infrastructure and falling gold grades. With increased travelling times for workers to reach work areas, the actual amount of time spent on production has diminished. Research conducted by the Chamber of Mines showed that if there is no substantial change in the mining methods used, local gold mining could cease in 2033. As a result, a modernisation plan comprising three stages is to be implemented by role players.
The Mining of Gold and Uranium describes current conditions, including the uncertainty that still exists in the regulatory environment, and discusses factors influencing the success of the industry. The report profiles 16 companies including Pan African Resources, which began the construction of the R1.74bn Elikhulu gold tailings project in Mpumalanga in September 2017. Also profiled is Sibanye-Stillwater, whose operations were negatively affected by a strike concerning illegal mining in June 2017, and which announced the retrenchment of 2,000 workers at its Cooke operations at the end of October 2017.