Scientists to drill the ‘most valuable mineral province on earth’

Gauteg province, South Africa. Stock image.

South African and German researchers are about to conduct scientific drilling at the Bushveld Complex, regarded as the most valuable mineral province on Earth. Their goal is to clarify several unresolved scientific questions related to the genesis of the unique body of rocks and its associated mineral deposits.

According to Freddie Roelofse, Associate Professor in the Department of Geology at the University of the Free State, two boreholes will be drilled as part of the project, including a 600-metre deep hole to the north of Mokopane and a 3-kilometre deep hole northwest of Burgersfort.

The researchers working on the project belong to the University of the Free State, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, the University of the Witwatersrand, and the Friedrich-Alexander University

Located in the Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North-West and Gauteng provinces of South Africa, the Bushveld Complex hosts the majority of the global platinum-group element, chromium, and vanadium resources, as well as major deposits of copper, nickel, gold, tin, iron, fluorite, and dimension stone. 

“As of 2006, more than 200 million ounces of platinum have already been mined from the Bushveld Complex and, between the depths of 1 kilometre and 5 kilometres, an estimated 6.8 billion ounces still remain,” a university press release states. “At current rates of extraction, the complex will likely not be mined out within the next 700 years, with much of the ore deeper than 1 kilometre still left intact.”

Besides the South African mining industry, surrounding communities are expected to benefit from this endeavour as one of the focus areas of the research relates to the potential for groundwater extraction from rocks to improve access to the resource. 

The drilling team will also be able to measure the temperature of the water in the boreholes in order to determine the geothermal energy potential of the complex.

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