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|Gold mining has been undertaken in South Africa for more than a century. A great proportion of that mining has been from the Witwatersrand Basin; a geological phenomenon that has few parallels throughout the world. It has produced some 47 000 tonnes of gold mainly from underground mines, many of which have been truly world class gold mines. The gold mines of the Witwatersrand Basin have dominated world gold production from their inception and their production has been one of the cornerstones of the development of South Africa as a whole. The mines have some very specific characteristics; their sheer size, the depth of extraction, the nature of the orebodies, and their labour-intensive methods. The mines have also been part of the Mining House concept-a concept unique to South Africa. South African production has declined from a maximum of 1000 tonnes in 1970 to 470 tonnes in 1997. This, as a percentage of western world production, has declined from a maximum of 79 per cent (in 1970) to 21 per cent of world production (in 1997). The nineties' have seen South Africa and its mining companies move onto the world stage and face the harsh realities of having to compete in all spheres of business with their aggressive counterparts principally in Australia, Canada and the USA. The fight is for investment funds with the owners looking for the best returns on their money. In his address Roger Dixon will examine the current situation in the gold mining industry and examine the competitiveness of the mines of the Witwatersrand Basin compared with their peers worldwide. He will also discuss some of the fundamental challenges facing South African gold mines in the areas of legislation, technology, industrial relations, and health and safety. The environment in which the mines operate has changed radically in recent years and their ability to respond to these challenges will determine their future existence.|