The Bullion Exchanges reports that in 2017, the South African Government celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first ever gold bullion coin in the world. That news has put a spotlight on why Krugerrands were produced in the first place and how gold mining plays a part in their production. Krugerrands are South African gold coins, which are well-recognized and widely traded. According to South Africa’s Rand Refinery, the Krugerrand was the world’s first ounce-denominated gold coin:
During the late 1960s and early 70s, when South Africa’s annual gold mine output averaged 75% of total output in the western world, the promotion of gold was considered vital, following the final collapse of the Gold Standard in 1971.
The chosen vehicle to drive the demand was the Krugerrand, which was developed in the 1960s by the Chamber of Mines of South Africa, working closely with the South African Reserve Bank and the South African Mint.
The Chamber of Mines is still active today, supporting and promoting the South African mining industry. But unlike the 60s and 70s, the Chamber of Mines reports that today, newly mined South African gold only accounts for about 5% of worldwide supply. The Witwatersrand Basin remains the world’s largest gold resource; to date the Wits Basin has produced more than 2 billion ounces of gold.
“The Witwatersrand gold-producing area in South Africa is underlain by an underground geological formation also known as the Witwatersrand Basin. It lies on the Kaapvaal Craton, and is one of the world’s largest gold placer deposits. This elliptical basin stretches over an arc of roughly 400km traversing across the Free State, North West and Gauteng provinces in South Africa. Gold occurs only along the northern and western margins of this basin, but not in a continuous band…
The gold in this basin occurs in the coarse grained conglomerates forming the upper portions of the “Witwatersrand Supergroup” that hosts roughly 7 000m of sedimentation. It is found here in association with uranium, quartz, carbon seams, phyllosilicates and pyrite.”
Gold is mined as a primary product or as a by-product from a wide range of deposits. Its deposits are classified into three major classes:
- Orogenic vein-type deposits formed during orogenic events
- Reduced intrusion-related Au-Bi-Te-As mineralization in post-orogenic granitic intrusions
- Oxidized intrusion-related deposits (porphyry, skarn, and high-sulfidation associated with high-level, oxidized porphyry stocks in magmatic arcs
We published an application note about gold exploration and identification of lithology and base metal anomalies using portable XRF analyzers here: Identification of Lithology & Base Metal Anomalies – Pathfinders for Gold Exploration Using Portable XRF Analyzers.
You can read more about the location and geology of South Africa’s gold-producing area here: http://www.chamberofmines.org.za/sa-mining/gold
Since, as the Chamber of Mines notes, “the glory days of the gold sector started waning in the early 21st century, as mines went deeper to find the rich reef patches,” it’s important that South African mining operations improve efficiencies and control processes from exploration through processing. They will want to maximize exploration budgets, pre-screen laboratory samples, identify drill targets quickly, reduce re-mobilization costs, and get an accurate report to the capital markets as fast as possible. Portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers and sample collection and preparation tools represent the latest innovations in elemental analysis technology for mining and exploration applications, paving the way to a positive return on investment. Accurate and reliable bulk weighing, monitoring and sampling will help mine operators to gain efficiently by monitoring production output and inventory. And Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) help optimize efficiencies, track throughput of continuous processes, and keep in compliance to help speed to market and reaction to an ever changing market demand. Because data is generated across the entire operation, from exploration to extraction to refining, disparate and non-integrated data sources can lead to loss of efficiency, missed opportunities and potentially lost revenue.
That’s a lot of Krugerrands.