Abstract

The modern period of mining commenced in what is now the Republic of South Africa in 1852. An analysis has been carried out of the mineral production records from that year to the end of 1973. The sources of production over this 122-year period have been ascertained with respect to their positions in the stratigraphic column of South Africa and to the ages of the geologic formations hosting the mineralization. The relative contributions to sales revenue that have come from different types of ores (native elements, sulfides, oxides, oxyphiles, silicates, halides, and biophiles) have been determined, as well as the relative contributions from the main categories of elements in the ores (siderophile, chalcophile, lithophile, and biophile). The value of production from each of the three main geologic environments (sedimentary-volcanic sequences, igneous complexes, and granitoid metamorphic terrains) has also been estimated. The unit regional values (average dollar yield per km 2 of area of outcrop) have been calculated for the country, as a whole, and for each of the three main geologic environments. The results of the analysis show that South Africa has an array of mineral wealth with many characteristics different from those that typify most of the other major mineral-producing countries of the world. These differences are thought to be due, in part at least, to the fact that the territory has a much more complete preserved stratigraphic column than the other countries and that there is a greater preserved thickness of Archeozoic and early Proterozoic strata. Another reason might be the frequency with which well-mineralized, mantle-derived igneous complexes have penetrated the very old, stable crust that constitutes the core of South Africa. Anomalous conditions in the mantle beneath the ancient nucleus might have been a third factor in making the country a classic area for the study of economic geology.

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