Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Kromdraai gold shaft

Kromdraai is a tourist attraction. Bats roost in its tunnels — long since abandoned. Ore was found here in 1881, just before the gold rush that created Johannesburg around the vast Witwatersrand. After a century of intensive gold production, South Deep, a mine owned by Gold Fields, extends about two miles underground.
Mponeng, owned by AngloGold Ashanti, goes to 2.5 miles and takes the world record.
The mine, which lies 7km from Sterkfontein in Gauteng’s Magaliesberg region, was first mined by Johannes Minnaar, who hit upon a 50cm-wide gold-bearing vein locked in quartzite and shale. Early miners followed the vein for a kilometre into a hilltop, chipping away at the gold seam. They harnessed donkeys to pull pans laden with ore along rail tracks to a crushing operation. Despite early mining success at Kromdraai, a much bigger gold rush on the Witwatersrand in 1886 lured miners away and the mine shut down in 1914.
As the drilling of the rock by handheld machinery reaches its human limits, Gauteng’s gold producers are racing to introduce modern methods. This means a shift from labour-intensive to far more machine-intensive mining. From more than 1,000 metric tons of gold in 1970 at the industry’s peak, production has fallen to about 150 tons in recent years.