South Africa country overview

The economy of South Africa

Geography, People, Culture, and Economic Profile

South Africa information index

Resources and power of South Africa

South Africa boasts a wealth of diverse mineral resources. The nation is endowed with significant deposits of diamonds and gold, as well as substantial reserves of iron ore, platinum, manganese, chromium, copper, uranium, silver, beryllium, and titanium. Despite the absence of commercially viable petroleum deposits, there are modest amounts of natural gas off the southern coast, and synthetic fuels are produced from coal at substantial facilities located in the Free State and Mpumalanga provinces.

For many years, the manufacturing sector has employed a larger number of individuals and contributed more to the gross domestic product (GDP) than the mining industry. Nevertheless, the mining sector remains a cornerstone of the South African economy, with mining-focused holding companies diversifying into other areas of economic activity. Gold is still the most significant mineral, with South Africa holding the position of the world’s leading producer. The country’s gold reserves are extensive, although production has been on a decline, and the market prices have not matched the remarkable peaks of the early 1970s. Consequently, several older mines have become marginal or unprofitable, leading to the closure of numerous gold mines in the 1990s and the loss of employment for thousands of workers. Historically centered around Johannesburg, the principal goldfields have now shifted to regions east, west (Far West Rand), and south (northern Free State) of the city, with significant production in Klerksdorp and Evander.

Coal ranks as another valuable mineral product of South Africa, with substantial deposits primarily located at accessible depths in the Mpumalanga and northern Free State Highveld. Coal production is geared towards export markets in East Asia and Europe, as well as for domestic electricity generation.

South Africa is recognized as the world’s foremost producer of platinum and chromium, with key mining operations in the northeast, particularly around Rustenburg and Steelpoort. The largest deposits of platinum-group metals and chromium are situated to the north of Pretoria. The Northern Cape province is home to the majority of the significant iron ore and manganese deposits, while titanium-bearing sands are prevalent along the eastern coastline. Additionally, the country is a source of uranium, palladium, nickel, copper, antimony, vanadium, fluorspar, and limestone. Diamond extraction, once concentrated around Kimberley, now takes place in various locations. The South African diamond sector, one of the world’s largest, is predominantly overseen by De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd.

The vast majority of South Africa’s electricity is thermally generated, almost exclusively from coal. The state-owned utility ESKOM operates large power stations primarily in Mpumalanga. A minor portion of the nation’s energy requirements is met by synthetic fuels derived from coal, alongside imported oil that is refined at coastal facilities or transported to an inland refinery in Sasolburg. Since 1984, a nuclear power station at Duinefonte has been operational. While the country’s hydroelectric potential is limited, there are state-initiated projects on several rivers. More substantial are the initiatives to import electricity from power stations on the Zambezi River at Cahora Bassa in Mozambique, and from projects in the Lesotho Highlands. South Africa also supplies electricity to neighboring Southern African nations.

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