Mining – An Industry Overview
The North West Province has a definitive comparative advantage in mining. Known as the Platinum Province, it is responsible for 94% of South Africa’s platinum, 46% of the granite and 25% of the gold produced in the country.
Mining is responsible for more than a third of the province’s GDP. Platinum comes from the Rustenburg and Brits districts which produce more platinum than any other single platinum-production in the world. Diamonds are mined at Lichtenburg, Koster, Christiana and Bloemhof. Fluorspar is exploited at Zeerust. Granite and marble are also mined, and copper and nickel by-products also yield substantial earnings annually.
Over the past decade, mining production in the North West Province has continued to reflect positive growth with the Province increasing its contribution to the overall mining output of the country from 26,4% in 1990 to 29,2% in 1999.
Five of the 12 platinum group metal producing mines in South Africa are situated in the Rustenburg area of what is known as the Bushveld Igneous Complex. This contains the world’s richest platinum reserves and is situated in the north-eastern part of the North West Province.
For several decades now, these 5 platinum mines have been producing about half of the total platinum group metal yield of the famous Merensky and UG2 reefs. Three of the mines in the area are owned and operated by one of the world’s leading mining houses, Anglo American, while the other two belong to Impala Platinum and Lonmin. Some of these mines are in joint venture partnerships with the Royal Bafokeng Nation.
Mines in the North West Province still have a substantial reserve base of metal bearing reef, which at the current rate of exploitation is likely to last for many years to come.
Increased world demand for platinum has seen the price of the metal soar over the past few years and consequently, platinum mining in the North West Province is booming.
With the increasing environmental consciousness world wide and a continually expanding list of new applications for platinum, investment activity is rife and huge expansions worth billions of Rands are already underway at many of the platinum mines in the area with additional growth on the cards – all ensuring a highly promising long term future for the metal.