Brief history of gold mining in South Africa

INCLUDING MAJOR EVENTS

1873
First large-scale production began when alluvial deposits were discovered at Pilgrim’s Rest
1884
Gold was discovered in the Witwatersrand which led to an influx of miners from around the world
1886 -
1900
First large gold mining company established and the commencement of the development and the population of Johannesburg increased ten-fold in just four years. A new class, the Randlords, emerged
1887
Africa’s largest stock market, the JSE, was started specifically to fund the mining sector
1889
Chamber of Mines founded
1890
South Africa began to slow down in the 1880s, as the new deposits being found tended to be pyritic ore and gold could not be extracted from this compound with any of the then available technologies. John Stewart MacArthur and the Dingus brothers overcame this by suspending the crushed ore in a cyanide solution. Separation of up to 96% pure gold was achieved which led to an investment boom as larger gold mines were opened up
1894
Three gold mines established the Rand Mutual Assurance Company, a world pioneer in workmen’s compensation
1898
Gold output soared to 118 tonnes making South Africa the world’s leading producer
1899 -
1902
Anglo-Boer/South African War, brought about to some extent by the struggle for control of the goldfields, caused extreme disruptions in the mining industry, and at some stage, mines were closed
1901
The Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (Wenela) set up by gold miners as a recruiting agent for migrant workers
1904
64,000 Chinese indentured labourers brought to work on mines to overcome the impasse in the gold industry after the War
1904 -
1908
Deep-level mining progressed to reach gold lower down in the ground
1910
Union of South Africa formed
1910
Chinese indentured labourers repatriated and replaced by migrant black labour, many recruited from neighbouring territories
1912
South Africa became the first state to introduce compensation for silicosis as an occupational disease
1913
Mineworkers went on a strike to get management to recognise union rights. The strike changed the nature of politics in South Africa and the state deemed it necessary to ensure that mining production continued at all costs
1916
Compensation for pulmonary TB was introduced
1920
Rand Refinery started
1921 -
1922
The Rand Rebellion/ Revolt saw white mine workers protest the industry’s attempt to replace semi-skilled white men with cheap black labour leaving about 200 people dead, more than 1,000 injured, 15,000 men out of work and a slump in gold production. The government came under pressure to protect skilled white workers in mining and three Acts were passed that gave employment opportunities to whites and introduced a plan for African segregation
1925
Establishment of Mine Rescue Services
1930s
The great depression hit, but the gold industry avoided disaster. Employment grew and the industry boomed
1946
Gold was discovered in the Orange Free State using drilling at locations pin-pointed by new geological developments
1948
Apartheid legislated
1960
Coalbrook mining disaster in which 435 people died
1960
Racial turmoil led to the Sharpeville massacre
1964
Establishment of Chamber of Mines’ Research Organisation
1968
Free gold market came into being
1970s
Boom period for South African gold mining with production peaking at over 1,000 tonnes
1973
Durban strikes saw the resurgence of the trade union activity that would culminate in the formation of trade union federations that eventually helped dismantle apartheid
1973
Discontent arising from new wage scales and changed differential rates of remuneration led to an outbreak of violence at Anglo American's Western Deep Levels and 11 miners were shot dead by police, and 27 injured
1979
Federation of South African Trade Unions (Fosatu) formed
1982
The National Union Of Mineworkers (NUM) formed – the first black union in mining in 40 years
1983
NUM won collective bargaining rights from the Chamber of Mines
1985
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) formed
1986
COSATU recognised as the most significant internal anti-apartheid force
1986
The Kinross disaster saw 178 miners killed and 235 injured after an underground fire
1987
NUM organised a three-week strike demanding increased wages, improved hostels and the abolition of the migrant labour system of 360,000 mine workers
1990
Nelson Mandela freed from prison
1994
South Africa held first democratic elections
1994
A tailings dam at Harmony's Merriespruit mine overflowed killing 17 people and damaging houses
1994
The Leon Commission of Inquiry set up to examine occupational health and safety
1995
104 miners died at Anglo American's Vaal Reefs mine when an underground locomotive carriage fell into a lift shaft, landing on the cage carrying the workers back to surface
1996
The Mine Health And Safety Act introduced to address the issue of worker safety
1998
The Minerals and Mining Green Paper called for the mining industry to be deracialised
2001
Solidarity established out of the old whites-only mineworkers' union
2001
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) officially registered as a union
2002
The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act provides for equitable access to and sustainable development of South Africa's mineral and petroleum resources
2003
Milestones agreed upon for safety and health performance, elimination of silicosis and noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)
2003
First women employed in mining positions
2004
Mining Charter came into effect
2005
Gold miners downed tools after wage negotiations failed and over 100,000 miners went on strike
2011
South Africa's mining industry is largest contributor to economic transformation through widespread black economic empowerment transactions
2016
Fatalities in the industry fall to lowest level in history of South African mining