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Fate of South African Gold Rests on Giant, Loss-Making Mine

  • South Deep mine has repeatedly failed to meet output targets
  • Gold Fields says mine can deliver 500,000 oz of gold by 2022
South Deep gold mine in Westonaria, South Africa.
South Deep gold mine in Westonaria, South Africa.Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg
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Three thousand meters below the plains southwest of Johannesburg, teams of miners are toiling to revive the gold industry that underpinned South Africa’s economy for generations.

The South Deep mine was built to target the world’s second-biggest known body of gold-bearing ore, a deposit that could produce for the next 70 years and slow the steady decline in the country’s production. Trouble is, the mine’s not making any money for owner Gold Fields Ltd.