Copper mining in South Africa might not be as lucrative as uranium and platinum mines, but it’s still an important part of the mining industry.
Scribante mining has assisted with numerous copper mining projects, ranging from infrastructure and machinery to material handling. Let’s take a deeper look at copper mining in South Africa to understand more.
How is Copper Mined?
Traditionally, copper is mined using open-pit mines, like many other precious resources. It’s the most common (but not the only) method of copper mining in Southern Africa. In some areas, such as the Okiep Copper Mine, shaft mining was the preferred method. Okiep Copper Mine once had some of the richest copper veins in the world and produced more than 2 million metric tons in its 150-year lifespan.
There isn’t much difference between copper mining and the process for other precious metals. It uses hydrometallurgy and pyrometallurgy to separate and process the ore into usable product, much like platinum and gold.
Copper Mining in Southern Africa
South Africa is by no means the only (or the largest) producer of copper on the African continent. In fact, in Southern Africa, Zambia is the largest producer of copper, mining nearly 30 times the amount South Africa produced in 2020. The Democratic Republic of Congo is by far the biggest producer in Africa, though; it mined nearly 1.4 million metric tons in 2020 alone.
In South Africa, some of the largest copper mining projects include:
1. Mogalakwena Mine
An Anglo American PLC mine located in Limpopo. It’s an open-pit mine that produces roughly 10,000 tons a year and is expected to run until 2040.
2. Nkomati Mine
Located in Mpumalanga, Nkomati Mine is operated by African Rainbow Minerals. Last year, it produced just over 5,000 tons of copper.
3. Palabora Mine
Perhaps the biggest copper mine in South Africa, Palabora is another open-pit mine that produces nearly 21,000 tons of copper a year. It’s owned by HBIS Group and will operate until 2039.
4. Black Mountain Mine
Owned by Vedanta Resources, Black Mountain Mine stands apart because it’s an underground mine. It’s nearing the end of its life, as it’s due to shut down in 2023 and only produced 1,700 tons of copper in 2020.
5. Bafokeng-Rasimone Platinum Mine
Despite being a platinum mine, Bafokeng-Rasimone also produces around 1,000 tons of copper a year. Owned by Royal Bafokeng Platinum, it’ll remain in operation until 2050.
Notable mention should also go to Okiep Copper Mine, which recently underwent a feasibility study that suggests it might be worth reopening. Orion Minerals ran the study and now plans to test-mine various areas to see what deposits still exist.
Copper is an incredibly important resource, particularly with our increasing reliance on electronic devices. So, while it might not have the same value to the economy of South Africa as platinum or uranium, it’s always a worthwhile mining project.
If you’re thinking about getting involved in copper mining in South Africa and need guidance or equipment, Scribante Mining is here for you. Get in touch to see how we can help.