The Impact of Mining

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Group Physical Science Project
Topic 1: What is the Impact of Mining on South Africa and its people? GOLD
Authors: Michelle Dandara, Kirsten Collins, Robyn Blench, Yumna Badrooien and Sonia Mataramvura Date of Completion: 17 February 2012
Teacher: Mr Altern

Abstract
Mining plays a very important role in South Africa: it is one of the driving forces behind South Africa’s booming economy and provides employment for millions of South Africans. South Africa boasts world-scale primary mining processing facilities and is a world leader of new technologies. In this research project we investigated the impact that gold mining has on South Africa and its people. We found that:

South Africa is a country that is rich in mining history with the discovery of gold and diamonds dating back to as early as 1867. •South Africa is one of the leading producers of gold in the world •Our land has a seemingly abundant source of minerals such as platinum group metals, chrome ore, diamonds and many others. •Mining in South Africa helps to support more than three million people. •The effects that mining has on the environment are numerous •Gold is a very valuable element in South Africa: it accounted for fifty three billion rands of South Africa’s sale of minerals in 2009. In conclusion to our project we stated that mining definitely has an impact on South Africa and its people and that these impacts are both negative and positive.

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Mining – a brief history
The history of Gold mining goes back to as far as the fourth millennium BC. The use of Gold increased rapidly during the Bronze Age as it was found to have manipulative properties as well as it was found to be very malleable. Only in 2600 BC did gold start to become associated with wealth. An event in 1834 influenced the history of gold mining in South Africa. Carel Kruger discovered gold in Witwatersrand whilst on a hunting expedition, north of the Vaal River. In 1886, an Australian gold digger, George Harris and an Englishman, George Walker discovered a gold reef in Witwatersrand and because of this discovery, it led to the developments of greater reefs which then constituted the world’s largest gold deposits known and that soon made South Africa the foremost gold producer in the world. About 4000 million metric tons of ore was treated from the Witwatersrand deposits during a century of mining which led to the recovery of 37 million kilograms of gold. Methods such as panning, sluicing, hard rock mining and dredging are typically used in South Africa. The most effective method used for mining in South Africa is hard rock mining because the reserves are typically encased fully in deep rock underground. Gold mines started to reach unprecedented depths because of the invention of industrial air cooling and quality air control systems with the deepest being 3900 metres deep. The hard rock mining method is accompanied by chemical benefaction where chemicals such as activated carbon or say cyanide is added to rough ore and then processed, sometimes by water or heat, agitation and electro-winning. The advancement of the modern gold benefaction can produce gold of a staggering 99.9999% purity. Over fifty per cent of the world’s gold reserves are found in South Africa. The world’s largest gold reef deposit is found in Witwatersrand. By 2007, the gold mining industry employed over 240 000 people and every day the number grows tremendously and in foreign currency earnings accounted for R49 billion. By 1975, 40% of the gold mined in the world had come from South Africa. By 2009 however, with a production of 324 tonnes China had affirmed its status as the largest producer of gold in the world, followed by Australia with 222.8 tonnes and then South Africa with 219.8 tonnes, an unfortunate decrease of 6%. In South Africa, gold mining continues to be a major contributor to the economy and the establishment of the country’s infrastructure. The gold mining industry...
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