Mining sector shed 23 000 jobs between 2012 and 2019 as gold lost its glitter

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In 2019, platinum group metals miners were the biggest employers, followed by coal mining and lignite.
In 2019, platinum group metals miners were the biggest employers, followed by coal mining and lignite.
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  • About 23 000 jobs were lost in the mining sector between 2012 and 2019.
  • Mining employment stood at 514 859 in 2019, down from 538 144 in 2012, as the sector went through mass jobs cuts.
  • The biggest job losses were recorded in gold and uranium ore mining.


About 23 000 jobs were lost in the mining sector between 2012 and 2019, according to data released by Statistics South Africa on Tuesday.

Mining employment stood at 514 859 in 2019, down from 538 144 in 2012, as the sector went through mass jobs cuts.

The survey, which is conducted every three to five years, details income generated by the industry, which is the backbone of the economy. It gives an assessment of the sector's contribution to exports, sales, income and procurement. The last survey was conducted in 2015.

The biggest job losses were recorded in gold and uranium ore mining, which registered a combined loss of 42 091 jobs. The mining of platinum group metals shed 8 190 employees. However, coal and lignite mining gained 17 112 jobs. While the sector bled jobs, the total income for the mining industry in 2019 was R552.1 billion, a 5.4% per annum increase of the rate seen in 2015.

In 2019, platinum group metals miners were the biggest employers, followed by coal mining and lignite, with the gold sector increasingly losing the coveted position of once being a significant mining employer.

The country's platinum mining belt of the North West also accounted for the highest number of employment, followed by Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng. 

Mining, which contributes 8.2% to the GDP, a figure which significantly dropped from the highs of around 21% in the 1980s, has seen a jobs bloodbath in recent years, as companies streamlined operations and closed loss-making shafts. The sector, however, still plays a critical role in the economy, as evidenced by the increased tax and royalties paid by companies during the current commodities upcycle.

Export sales for the mining industry in 2019 were up 4.7% to R323.8 billion. The largest contributor to export sales in 2019 was platinum group metals,  followed by coal, iron ore and gold.


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