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Exploring South Africa’s mineral wealth

- Wits University

The newly established Cimera will take the study of minerals to the next level.

The new DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Integrated Mineral and Energy Resource Analysis (Cimera), co-hosted by Wits, focuses on the study of the origin, distribution and character of Earth’s mineral and fossil energy resource systems with the aim of ensuring their sustainable use not only in South Africa but in Africa as a whole.

“The mineral wealth in South Africa is amazing and we can now take our study of minerals to the next level,” says Co-Director of Cimera, Professor Judith Kinnaird from the Wits School of Geosciences.

“The School has a strong research base and expertise in platinum, uranium, chromium, copper and rare earth minerals,” says Kinnaird.

“We have now joined forces with Professor Nick Beukes, a world expert in iron and manganese and Co-Director of the Centre based at the University of Johannesburg, to create a central hub for research and human resource development in mineral and energy resource analysis in Africa.”

The Centre has eight major research focus areas, including the metallogenesis of early earth mineral resource systems, studying South Africa’s three superlative mineral resources and studying the fossil energy resources of sedimentary basins.

“We are studying some of the earliest ore deposits in Barberton, where some early organisms from 3.5 billion years ago can be identified in micro cavities. We are also conducting a study of the Wits basin where 40% of the world’s gold still lies buried and we are conducting several intensive studies into the events that led to the creation of the Bushveld platinum complex,” explains Kinnaird.

“We are trying to understand what the continental framework was when this enormous body, which is 400 kilometres across by 300 kilometres wide, covering at least 65 000 square kilometres, emerged.”

 She adds: “Getting to know key questions on how this body of magma occurred might assist researchers and prospectors to find new undiscovered mineral resources.”

A new degree – a Masters of Science in Economic Geology – has also been established. Researchers from the Centre have also been invited to present their research at lectures and conferences around the world.