The History of Coal Mining in South Africa

The history of coal mining in South Africa is closely linked with the economic development of the country. Commercial coal mining commenced in the eastern Cape near Molteno in 1864.  The discovery of diamonds in the late 1870s led to expansion of the mines in order to meet the growing demand for coal. Commercial coal mining in KwaZulu-Natal and on the Witwatersrand commenced in the late 1880s following the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886.  In 1879 coal mining commenced in the Vereeniging area and in 1895 in the Witbank area to supply both the Kimberly mines and those on the Witwatersrand.  South Africa began a period of major economic development after World War II.  New goldfields were discovered and developed in the Welkom, Klerksdorp and Evander areas; a local steel industry was established with mills being built at Pretoria, Newcastle and Vanderbijlpark; an oil-from-coal industry was established, initially at Sasolburg and later at Secunda; mining of iron, manganese, chromium, vanadium, platinum and various other commodities commenced and expanded; and power stations were erected on the coalfields to supply energy to these developing industries and to the growing urban population in the country. In addition to meeting local needs, coal mining companies began to develop an export market, making South Africa a major international supplier of coal.


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