Gold Mining in South Africa
Mining has played an essential role in the modern history of South Africa. Reports of valuable deposits of gold, diamonds, and other precious materials led European prospectors to the area by the thousands. Competition over these valuable resources created tension among the different European communities which formed in South Africa during the 19th century, most notably the British and the Dutch. This aggression and competition over mining in South Africa actually led two two wars, The First Boer War (1880-1881) and the Second Boer War (1899). During this entire time, the native population was forced to work in the mines by their colonial oppressors. Thus, gold mines in South Africa have played a major role in shaping the country's history, as well as making it into the wealthiest nation on the African continent.
Gold mining continues to be an extremely important economic activity in South Africa. South African gold mines currently account for nearly 12% of worldwide gold production each year. However, as recently as the mid-1990s, South Africa produced nearly 30% of the world's gold on the export market. Despite this decline in gold production over the last decade, the nation is still home to an estimated 50% for the world's gold reserves.
Gold mining is a huge industry in South Africa and provides employment for a large proportion of the population. Nearly 500,000 people are employed in South Africa's gold mines. The gold industry accounts for roughly 18% of South Africa's annual Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. In 2005, South Africa's gold exports were valued at $3.8 billion. South Africa is also home to the two deepest gold mines in the world. The East Rand Mine in Boksburg, and the TuaTona in Carletonville are both nearly 3600 meters deep. The rock is so hot at this depth that specialized cooling technology had to be developed to protect the workers.