Africa has $24 billion worth of 'invisible gold'

The largest concentration of gold on Earth is in South Africa, in the Witwatersrand mountain range. People have been extracting precious metal from it since the 19th century, and today there are dozens of mines there. Over the entire period, miners have extracted approximately 50,000 tons of gold from them, which is about 40% of all gold mined on the planet. Mponeng deepest mineIt goes almost 4,000 meters deep, and workers are forced to work in 50-degree heat. The reserves of gold even in the largest mine in the world are not limited, so it will someday be exhausted. After this, people will have to look for other sources of a valuable resource. According to one African metallurgist, you won't have to search long because the Witwatersrand mountain range may be hidden in “invisible gold” worth $24 billion.

Africa has a $24 billion source of 'invisible gold'. If gold supplies run out, scientists may find it elsewhere. Image source: Photo.

If gold supplies run out, scientists can find them in other places. Image source:

The largest gold deposit in the world

The Witwatersrand mountain range was formed approximately 2.9 billion years ago. People have guessed that there is a lot of gold in this place since time immemorial. But proof of this was found only in 1886. A few years after the first excavations, hundreds of wealth seekers flocked to the deposit. The gold rush lasted for many years, and there were so many people that over time, the city of Johannesburg was formed near the mountain system. Today it is the largest city in South Africa with a population of more than 4 million people.

The largest gold deposit in the world. The city of Johannesburg in the 1990s. Photo source: Photo.

The City of Johannesburg in the 1990s. Photo source:

Once upon a time, this place was the bottom of an ancient sea. Over billions of years, sediments fused together, which caused the formation of gold. According to geologists, the huge Witwatersrand Basin contains more gold than any other part of the globe.

The deepest gold mine in the world is located in the Witwatersrand. It is calledMponengand its depth is more than 4 kilometers. Miners extracting the precious metal are forced to work in very difficult conditions.

Here are even more details about what was written above:The richest gold deposit – humanity has earned billions of dollars at this place

What is a tailings pond

The demand for gold is always very high, so mining this resource never stops. Because of this, most of the rocks with a high concentration of gold have already been processed, so miners have to drill deeper into the ground. And this despite the fact that they have already reached a depth of 4000 meters, and working in such conditions is pure torture.

What is a tailings dam. A huge tailings dam from a bird's eye view. Photo source: Photo.

A huge tailings dam from a bird's eye view. Photo source:

Gold mining leaves a huge amount of waste, which is called tailings. Essentially, these are mixtures of water and ore residues that are isolated to protect the environment from pollution – they may contain toxic substances. There are also small concentrations of gold in the tailings, but no one is extracting it because it is not profitable.

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What is “invisible gold”

Recently, metallurgist Steve Chingwaru from Zimbabwe conducted scientific work and found that due to the depletion of ore with a high concentration of gold, the processing of tailings dumps could turn into a profitable business. His calculations showed that mining waste may contain“invisible gold”weighing 460 tons. The total value of the hidden resource could reach $24 billion. The term “invisible gold” usually refers to gold particles that are present in the ore in the form of tiny particles or atoms that are not visible to the naked eye and often cannot be detected using standard methods.

Perhaps someday humanity will have to start mining “invisible gold”

The author of the scientific work believes that treatment of tailings can also protect the environment from pollution. The fact is that current waste storage systems are ineffective and harm the environment. For example, they release sulfuric acid, which, when released into groundwater, activates other toxic substances. Therefore, the researchers concluded that there is both economic and environmental potential in mining “invisible gold.”

The researcher has already spoken to gold mining experts. He found that extracting gold from tailings ponds costs much more than searching for the precious metal in conventional ore with a higher concentration of gold. However, if you scale the technology, this business can really be made profitable. But it is unknown whether mining companies will do this in the near future.

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Looking for gold is becoming more and more difficult, but once upon a time even an ordinary person could find a gold nugget. You can learn about one of these stories from our article “The largest gold nugget in Russia that changed the life of a simple worker.”