Sparing mine heritage sites has payoff potential for the South African economy

16th September 2016 By: Martin Creamer - Creamer Media Editor

Sparing mine heritage sites has payoff potential for the South African economy

Bogota has a gold museum that is one of Colombia’s most visited tourist attractions. Johannesburg was built on gold, but besides being in Gauteng, which means ‘Place of Gold’ in Sotho, there are few other visible links with gold bar the mine dumps.

The Rand Refinery hides itself under a bushel and attempts to build a gold jewellery hub came to naught. Yet this economy needs growth and jobs and there is a Gauteng tourism body that could make a job of it.

Perhaps Johannesburg should try to get declaration on its mining heritage sites and then take the cue from the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), which has agreed to protect declared world heritage sites as part of a task to make mining more sustainable.

Companies like Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Minerals, as well as other ICMM members, including Anglo American and Glencore, would do well to push the tourism value of mining heritage as a sustainable development option.

The view of ICMM CEO Tom Butler is that an end should be put to continued operation on what he terms “these precious sites”.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) reports that 59 out of 203 protected sites have been formally reported to the world heritage committee as still facing a threat from extractive industries.

Wonderfully, Unesco singled out South Africa as one of the 192 countries that have ratified the world heritage convention by enshrining protection for heritage sites in domestic legislation.

But much more can be done locally to preserve what piques the curiosity of tourists, as is the case when one visits Alaska, for instance, and extend tourism awareness into Africa.

It is bad news that a Unesco world heritage site in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is a habitat of exceptional biodiversity and home to endangered gorillas, elephants and other species, is being honoured in the breach. Preservation of such sites offers enhanced mining image and valuable potential economic spin-off.

Modernisation of Mining

As can be read on page 12 of this edition of Mining Weekly, work done to date indicates that the concept of modernising mines has a propensity to lengthen mine life materially, preserve jobs, improve safety, reduce health risk and bring lower-grade orebodies and deeper resources into the picture that would otherwise be left unmined.

In South Africa’s case, modernisation has the power to spawn the equivalent of 11 large gold mines and eight large platinum mines and will allow gold mining to continue profitably well beyond 2045. Without modernisation, the gold mining industry will experience a sharp production decline as early as 2019 and die out completely in 2033. Similar considerations apply to South Africa’s platinum mines, although their resources are nowhere near gold’s exhaustion level. Preserved will be 592-million tonnes of gold resources and 360-million tonnes of platinum resources.

To watch a video in which Chamber of Mines senior executive: modernisation and safety Sietse van der Woude talks to Mining Weekly’s Martin Creamer, scan the barcode with your phone’s QR reader on page 12, or go to Video Reports on