The Witwatersrand Basin in South Africa represents the richest gold field ever discovered.
The Witwatersrand Basin is an underground geological formation which was once forming the shore and floor of a prehistoric sea. Gold was first discovered in 1852 by J.H Davis, and English miner, however it wasn’t until 1886, when the Witwatersrand Gold Rush occurred, that the massive wealth of the Witwatersrand was discovered. The gold rush was a key part in the mineral revolution and led to the establishment of the city of Johannesburg.
Explorer and prospector Jan Gerritze Bantjes was the first and original discoverer of Witwatersrand in June 1884 having inspected the area since the early 1880’s. However, Bantjes only discovered minor reefs, the main credit is attributed to George Harrison, whose findings were made in July 1886.
It is estimated that 40% of all gold ever mined has come out of the Witwatersrand Basin. Since its discovery, the basin has produced over 2 billion ounces of gold! This was accomplished by creating deep underground tunnels in order for the miners to reach the vast reserves of gold hidden below the ground. The basin consists of a 5000-7000m thick layer of Archean, mainly sedimentary rocks laid down over a period of around 260 million years.
In 1970, South Africa’s output accounted for 79% of the worlds gold production, this had dramatically reduced by 2009 to less than 8%. This is almost a 90% decrease in gold production in just under 40 years.