The world's deepest mine

The history of South African industrialisation is the history of mining for precious commodities

The history of South African industrialisation is the history of mining for precious commodities. European settlers were drawn to the country on the 18th Century by the bountiful minerals – gold and diamonds. While these jewels have been at the centre of political turmoil during episodes of South Africa’s history, they remain the fulcrum of the economy.

The world's deepest mine

According to the Chamber of Mines, South Africa’s mining industry accounts for 18% of gross domestic product (GDP) and more than 50% of foreign exchange earnings. As well as gold, South Africa is also today the world's largest producer of platinum and chromium, and a substantial producer of coal and manganese.

The world's deepest mine is in South Africa – the Mponeng gold mine in Gauteng province, which goes down 3.9km to the centre of the earth. Huge investment goes into developing the facilities and technology for extracting and processing these commodities. There is massive industrial infrastructure supporting the operations, including – of course – mobile crane operations for all the lifting work that is involved. Very much part of this is Ritchie Crane Hire, located 150km east of Johannesburg in Emalahleni. Since 2007 it has been owned by the mining services conglomerate Sentula Mining (formerly Scharrig Mining). Ritchie Crane Hire has a fleet of 30 mobile cranes, many of which are Tadano, ranging in size up to the 220-tonne capacity ATF 220G-5. Five of its Tadano cranes are seen working here (above) to lift a giant conveyer belt together. Three of the cranes are ATF 220G-5s, one is an ATF 160G-5 and one is an ATF 110G-5.

Another Tadano customer that does a lot of work in South Africa’s mining industry is Chimes Crane Hire, which was
founded in 2003 by Paul Chimes and Elias Nyathi , who previously ran the successful Beacon Crane Hire in the 1990s.

Chimes is located in the Johannesburg suburb of Germiston and has a fleet of 16 mobile cranes, also ranging up to the ATF 220G-5, just like Ritchie. Almost all of its fleet is Tadano all terrain and truck cranes. Pictured below we see two of Chimes’ green cranes – an ATF 220G-5 and ATF 110G-5 – in action helping to maintain mining machinery. The global financial crisis reduced commodity prices and world demand. South Africa’s GDP fell nearly 2% in 2009 but has since slowly recovered and 2% growth is forecast for 2014.

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