Open pit mining – also called open cut mining or open cast mining – is a surface mining technique used to extract rocks and minerals. It requires large-scale equipment, including shovels and drills.

Motor graders also play a role, maintaining haulage roads so that both equipment and mined material can be transported to and from the mines.

South Africa is home to some of the biggest open pit mines in the world, including the well-known Kimberley Mine, Palabora Mine and Jagersfontein Mine.

Kimberley Mine

Kimberly Big Hole

The Kimberley Mine, often referred to as “The Big Hole”, is where the world’s first hard-rock diamond deposits were found.

The mine was opened in 1871 and closed in 1914, during which time almost three tonnes of diamonds were mined. At 215 metres deep, the mine is one of the largest hand-excavated holes in the world.

Palabora Mine

Palabora Mine

Palabora Mine is an 800-metre deep mine in Phalaborwa, in the Limpopo Province. The mine has been in operation since 1956, and is the only producer of refined copper in South Africa today.

In total, Palabora Mine produces about 60 000 tonnes of refined copper per year – enough to supply most of South Africa’s copper needs.

Venetia Diamond Mine

Venetia Diamond Mine

Opened in 1992, the Venetia Diamond Mine is located in the Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve, close to the town of Alldays, in the Limpopo Province.

The mine is one of De Beers’ six diamond-mining operations in the country, and is the largest producer of diamonds in South Africa. It has been excavated to a depth of 450 metres.

Jagersfontein Mine

Jagersfontein Mine

Jagersfontein, a small town in the Free State, is one of the oldest diamond mining towns in the world. Diamonds were first discovered in the area in 1870.

Incredibly, the hand-dug section of the Jagersfontein Mine is estimated at a depth of 275 metres, making it the deepest hand-excavated hole in the world.



Mogalakwena is the largest platinum mine in South Africa.

Established in 1993 near the town of Mokopane in the Limpopo Province, it consists of five open pits – Sandsloot, Zwartfontein, Mogalakwena South, Mogalakwena Central and Mogalakwena North. The depths of the pits range from 45 metres to 245 metres.

Shishen Mine

Shishen Mine

Shishen Mine is a 400-metre deep iron mine, located 30 kilometres from Kathu in the Northern Cape.

The mine has been in operation since 1953. Today, Sishen has one of the largest iron ore reserves in the world. More than 500 million tonnes of iron ore has been produced at Shishen Mine since it first opened.

Grootegeluk Mine

Grootgeluk Mine

Located in Limpopo and owned by Exxaro, the Grootegeluk Mine includes the largest beneficiation facility in the world, with six plants upgrading roughly 8 000 tonnes of coal per hour.

Using conventional truck and shovel operations, the mine produces about 18.8 million tonnes of coal per annum.

The pit at Grootegeluk includes 13 benches and has a maximum depth of 120 metres.

Cullinan Diamond Mine

Cullinan Diamond Mine

Also known as the Premier Mine, Cullinan Diamond Mine in Gauteng was first established in 1902. The mine is famous as a source of some of the world’s largest, gem-quality diamonds – including the largest rough, gem-quality diamond ever found and the two largest diamonds in the British Crown Jewels.

In total, Cullinan has yielded more than 750 diamonds of over 100 carats. The mine is also the world’s only significant source of blue diamonds.

Today the mine is owned by Petra Diamonds. It’s located in one of the largest kimberlite pipes in the region. It has a surface area of 39 hectares and a depth of 190 metres.

Petra Diamonds is aiming to increase production at Cullinan from 920,000 carats to 2.6 million carats by 2019.

Finsch Diamond Mine

Finsch Diamond Mine

Also owned by Petra Diamonds, the Finsch diamond mine is situated about 165 kilometres west of Kimberley. Discovered in 1961, the deposit was first mined as an open pit. An underground mine was subsequently developed below the pit.

The open-pit mine at Finsch spans 17.9 hectares and has a depth of about 100 metres. By production, it’s South Africa’s second-largest diamond mine, after Venetia Mine.

By 2018, it’s estimated that the mine will be yielding 2 million carats a year.

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