Could the mining industry regain its former glory? It once was responsible for a fifth of SA’s economic output (in 1980) and employed 760,000 (in 1987). It led the world in terms of volumes and technology. The mining industry of today is nothing like that. In 2016 it was responsible for just 7.6% of GDP, and has shrunk since then. It is now firmly in recession, with production falling 9.9% in the first quarter of 2018. Employment has fallen to under 400,000. Mining, by definition, declines. Each kilogram mined is one less available for future mining. It tends to be the cheaper resources that are accessed first, so costs tend to increase over time. Also, as economies develop, mining has to compete for labour and other resources with other industries. Both factors work against mining industries over time. Britain’s coal industry, for instance, employed 500,000 people in nearly 500 mines across the UK in the 1960s. By the 1990s it employed just 13,000 from 16 mines. Today, even those a...

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