Address by the Chairman of The Industrial Development Corporation and of the South African Iron and Steel Industrial Corporation Limited

Organization: The Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 9
Publication Date: Unavailable
Dr H. J. van Eck (Honorary Life Member): "Mr President, I regard it as a signal honour that I was invited to address the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy on its 75th Anniversary. I also wish to add my congratulations and good wishes to the many you have already received on this memorable occasion. Seventy-five years is indeed a good age and the achievements of your Institute certainly justify this special celebration. South Africa owes her present prosperity largely to the technological ability and determination of her own people. Members of the Institute contributed in large measure to this great development of our country and through the years have upheld their high reputation for scientific integrity, dynamic enterprise and dedicated service. It was their knowledge which provided the key to unlocking the mineral wealth which lay dormant for countless ages. The history of world mining dates back many centuries. We know of the mercury mines of Spain, the tin mines of Cornwall and the zinc mines of Poland, but it was not until colonization of the western hemisphere started in about 1500 that mining of any consequence began in North America. It is true that the peoples of South America and Mexico had accumulated wealth out of gold and silver, but industrialized mining was not a feature of these agrarian cultures. The mining wealth that eventually developed in North America was based on advances in the technology of processing minerals and served as an incentive to people in other new countries. Big mines were opened elsewhere in the world. From Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Rhodesia, Australia, Burma and India, to name but a few, there has been a steadily increasing production of an expanding range of minerals and metals. By the middle of the 20th century the trend was to increase the production and use of such comparatively uncommon metals as cobalt, nickel, titanium, and others, and a great mining rush started to search for, and develop, the deposits of uranium, and related radio-active minerals. It is worth pausing a few minutes to reflect that most of early mining was based on the recovery of virgin metals like gold and silver or easily treated high grade ores of copper, tin and zinc. Today, much of this type of mining would be regarded as picking the eyes out of the mine. With the development of improved ore separating, ore concentration and recovery processes, we developed into bulk mining and bulk treatment and in South Africa we have some very big mines, also outside the gold mining industry at Phalaborwa, for instance. Mining techniques are applied which compare with the best in the world. These large mines could only develop because of the perfection of new concentrating techniques and, of course, because of the development of markets. We have mentioned nickel and cobalt. These names were given to those mischievous mining sprites called nickels and kobolds to whom the suspicious miners ascribed their inability to smelt copper from copper nickel or arsenious copper ores. In South Africa, the presence of minerals was known to the modern Western world as far back as 1497 when Vasco da Gama found the native 'strandlopers' at the St. Helena Bay wearing copper rings. In 1669, after the British East India Company had formed their settlement, they employed miners and assayers in prospecting for minerals and in 1685 found traces of copper in the copper mountain of Namaqualand where some 170 years later a rich deposit of copper was to be opened up. This deposit also had a chequered
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