Gold News

Gold Mining Plummet Continues in South Africa

Little prospect of trend reversing...

JUST a couple of decades back, South Africa was the world's biggest Gold Mining producer – and by a huge margin, writes Lawrence Williams at MineWeb. 

But recently overtaken by China, Australia and the US, and in danger of being overtaken by Russia, has seen the decline continuing, according to Statistics SA.

The state statistical body's report on South Africa's mine production in January this year sees an overall decline year on year for all metals and minerals of 2.5%, but in the gold sector the decline was a massive 11.3%, more than even that in December when gold output fell  by 8.2%

For the country's economy, higher metal prices have mitigated the production fall-off to a major extent, but the continuing output decline as many of the country's biggest gold mining operations have reached the ends of their lives and have closed down, and/or are having to work much lower ore grades, sees no end to the continuing downturn. The country's gold output is nowadays less than a quarter of what it was at its peak in the early 1970s and the fall-off has been the major contributor to at best flat global gold production over the past few years.

There is little prospect too of any serious reversal in the trend.  The old mines that are still operating are mostly getting deeper and deeper with safety concerns a limiting factor, while new operations coming on stream tend to be either small by comparison, low grade, or both. 

In terms of South Africa's overall mine production fall, gold is by far the most significant contributor, with coal and iron ore in particular bringing some resilience to the country's overall output picture.  Even the beleaguered platinum sector saw a small output increase over the past three months compared with the similar preceding period.

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Founded in 1999 as part of the Johannesburg-listed MoneyWeb media group, Mineweb is one of the world's leading sources of mining and metals-investment news, comment and analysis. Managed since 2003 by professional mining engineer Lawrence Williams – formerly of Mining Journal, and with more than 30 years' technical and financial experience in the sector – MineWeb provides thorough, international coverage of the natural resources industry.

See all MineWeb articles.

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