Gold in Africa

Robert Cooper
26 de November 2020
Robert Cooper  7 points  Member
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Gold is a rarely occurring element. In nature, gold prefers as “loneliness”. It is generally found in native form. “Gold is one of many elements, or substances that cannot be changed by normal chemical means that are found in the Earth’s crust”. However, it occurs in natural mixtures - alloys with some metals. Most often, gold forms a hard solution with silver. Pure gold has a yellow (“golden”) color. The impurities of silver make this color paler and copper - redder. Gold is characterized by high thermal and electric conductivity and excellent reflectivity. It is malleable, ductile and resistant to rusting. All of these features allow people to use it in different areas of industry and science. Gold is universally used as a metal for the production of jewelry. In addition, many of its useful features make it possible to improve the workflows of electronics and medicine. Gold is not for nothing called a valuable and noble metal.

Gold was highly valued since ancient times. Originally, it was used to create jewelry and religious objects. However, many wars occured because of it. Entire civilizations disappeared, because of thirst of owning gold. The area of its usage is wide. Each year more than 150 tons of the precious metal goes to the needs of industrial electronics. Metal is used in everyday objects - televisions, washing machines, computers, phones and in building the spacecraft. It is known that the rocket engines are coated with alloys from gold for better heat reflection. Medicine also found many areas of practical application for the precious metal. It helps to diagnose and treat cancer. In chemotherapy, colloidal solutions containing radioactive gold are used. The latest technologies in medicine allow doctors to apply more efficacious methods of dealing with cancer: the introduction of nano-capsules of gold under the influence of infrared radiation. With this action, malignant cells die. In 2010, more than 450 tons of gold was used for technical purposes:

1. In electronics, metal is used as a coating of contacts, in particular chips. Gold coating is used in the production of connectors and printed circuit boards.

2. Gold alloys are needed for soldering metals, especially, when special accuracy of compounds is required.

3. Gilding of metals. The value of gold is rarely justifies its use as a coating for corrosion protection. However, finished products look very expensive.

4. Dentistry consumes a significant amount of gold. It is also used in some pharmaceutical products. It is registered as a food additive E175.

Gold is everywhere: in soil, in rocks and in sea water. This metal is mined in many countries. Africa is not the exception. In ancient times, Africa was one of the main providers of gold in the world. The Egyptians got to the southern part of the continent to seek it. Saharan Africa was the main source of gold mining, in particular modern Ghana, which was named the Gold Coast, because of the gold mines that were found there. In the Middle Ages, extraction of precious metal continued. However, it did not have any significant values. The situation prevailed in recent times, until the last century. Africa again was called a gold-rich province in the world. It happened due to the discovery of the richest entrails of gold-bearing conglomerates by the Boers in the southern part of Africa, where European immigrants settled. At that time, the Boers organized a few small independent republics: Natal, Transvaal, Cape and Orange.

In general, Boers unwittingly helped to open the treasures of Africa. In the thirty years of the 19th century, they paved the roads in the interior of the country. Subsequently, people rushed by these roads aflame at first by the diamond and then by the gold rush. Precious finds started not with gold, but with diamonds here. In 1866, the son of the owner of a cattle farm found the diamond weighing 13 carats (2,6 grams). The following year, on the banks of the Orange River, the diamond was raised, weighing 22 carats. In 1869, a shepherd found a gem weighing 83 carats. Such finding could not go unnoticed. When rumors about these findings were widely spread, the flow of diamond hunters rushed up in South Africa. In turn, the search for diamonds led to the discoveries of gold. In 1886, near Johannesburg, outcrops of gold ores were found quite by chance. At first, this finding did not attract much attention. The deposit was actively developed. This deposit was not considered being very promising. People were confident that with the depth, ore would become poorer. However, drilling showed that in the depth of 180 meters, ore quality did not change.

The gold mining industry for a long time became the foundation of the economy of Africa. Single prospectors were not very fortunate. By the time of the discovery of gold, large companies were already established. They were created during the diamond rush. Lone prospectors were immediately pushed back. From the beginning, the production of gold was organized on a large scale. Industrial companies divided the entire territory of Africa and using extremely cheap labor - Africans created the largest and gold extraction plants. Later, companies began to mine coal, copper, platinum, uranium and other minerals. However, the main place belonged and belongs to gold. The maximum volume of production Africa achieved in 1970 - 1000 tons. After that, a recession came again, which continued until the early 80s of the last century.

There is the ruthless exploitation of local workers - Africans on gold mining in Africa. There are more than 700 thousand people. They are used in the most difficult and dangerous work. However, workers are paid several times less than white. If to compare, for example, the salary of African workers on African mines, with a salary of workers on the Canadian mines, it is in 15-16 times less.

Gold in Africa during a long period of time was much cheaper than in any other country. Africans are the labor force here, whose work is paid much lower than the labor of the white workers. Mining activities are conducted in very complex and difficult conditions. At great depth (almost 4,000 meters), rocks are in highly stressed state. Mining strikes occur very often. They are accompanied by the destruction of mines, and sometimes loss of life. In order to prevent or reduce the effects of rock bursts, it is necessary to use more complex and time-consuming development system. In deep mines, temperature underground is extremely high. That is the reason why it is necessary to use artificial cooling air.

Gold reserves in the bowels of Africa are assessed differently. In 1965, the U.S. Bureau of Mines set them at a rate of 31,000 tons. Western economists argue that gold mining in Africa will increase until 2015, and when it reaches 700-750 tons then there will be a recession. In general, there are about 60-70 working mines in Africa. However, the bulk of production gives the top 20 of them. Annual production from these mines is from 11 to 80 tons. Nowadays, the largest mines are “Baal Riffs” (80 tons), “Consolidated Drayfonteyn” (73,3 tons), “Buffelsfontein” (30 tons), “Western Holdings” (40 tons), and “Western Deep Levels” (39 tons). The average gold content of these mines ranges from 9 to 13 grams per ton. There was a time when it seemed that nothing can be more solid than the gold foundation of African economy. Nowadays, the situation has changed and many economists point out that over-dependence on gold is dangerous. It is not only in the growing competition from Australia and Canada, but in the volatility of world prices for gold. Experts say that gold will determine the economic prosperity of Africa for a long time. Industry prospects are very promising. Africa is on the threshold of the third “Golden Wave”. The opening of the Witwatersrand gold fields is considered as the first one, development of new minefields in the 60 - 70 years of the XX century is the second wave of. Until the end of the XX century, the country carried out 15 major projects in the mining of gold.

There are a lot of negative sides in gold mining. Entrepreneurs use child labor in the production of the precious. It is important to mention that countries of Africa commit this shocking crime against humanity. A little boy squeezes into a narrow slit of the well, where even his thin shoulders rub against the walls to go down for the black gold mining. Later, upstairs, children complain on pain in the joints and ulcers. It is found that a substantial part of jewelry sold in markets of North America and Europe has a “black” origin of underground mines of Africa, where of illegal child labor is used. According to some expert sources, there are from 15 to 30% of illegal (“black”) gold available on the market. In addition to poor sanitation and working conditions, children are exposed to the terrible effects of toxic mercury that is present in the rock. Children are involved in the process of melting of mercury from gold, inhaling toxic fumes. Gold mining is associated with many health-damaging wastes and by-products. In the field of industrial gold mining, people suffer from diseases related to unsafe and hazardous waste.

Strip mining of gold in Africa by transnational corporations pose an environmental “time bomb”. This is evidenced by a new book of the Swiss journalist Gilles Labarthe “Black Gold”. In addition, gold mining boom caused by the impetuous increase in world prices of precious metal, did not let to the prosperity of the population of areas adjacent to the producing fields. The book notes that the open cuts, where gold is extracted causing great damage to human health and the environment. Groundwater in areas of these developments is infected by cyanide and mercury. These substances cause the development of miscarriages, blindness and paralysis. These hazardous compounds are usually used in the extraction of gold. Cleaning of all gold mining countries in Africa would be very costly. Furthermore, the author of the book points out that the main African companies use cheap labor force and make a fortune on the economy of safety measures.

History witnessed the phenomenon of the gold rush, when the discovery of new gold deposits led to fundamental changes in the economy of the whole region and the world. Africa is not the exception. In the last century, gold prospectors from all over the world poured into Africa in search of gold. This led to many civil conflicts.

At present, the total share of gold in state reserves in Africa is 557,1 tons, which is approximately 1,76% of the total amount of gold held by the international reserves of the world. During the year 2012, the gold reserves of Africa decreased by 2,47% (14,1 tons). Algeria is the leader among African countries. It has good national gold reserves approximately 173,6 tons. Algeria takes the twenty-second place in the world, according to the state reserves of gold.

The article was prepared by Robert Cooper, a researcher at .