The resources beneath South Africa’s soil, including iron ore, precious metals and coal, ought to be an unmitigated blessing. Johannesburg, the city of gold, owes its existence to these riches. Its landscape is still dotted with piles of sandy residue, or “tailings”, from mining and quarrying. The industry accounts for over 20% of South Africa’s exports and employs over 450,000 people. But it also adds to the volatility of South Africa’s economy and the pugnacity of its politics, “The Economist” reports.
Mining and quarrying shrank by 4.7% in 2016, then rebounded, growing by 4.3% year-on-year in the first half of 2017. This improvement partly reflects stronger growth in China, which consumes almost half of the world’s coal, 30% of its gold jewellery and over 40% of its steel. But the industry’s economic prospects remain hostage to its political fortunes.