The Limpopo Province is rich in minerals, including copper, asbestos, coal, iron ore and platinum. The province is a typical developing area; exporting primary products and importing manufactured goods and services.
Unemployment is high. The per-capita income is by far the lowest in the country. Many inhabitants earn their livelihood as migrant workers in Gauteng. Some commute each working day from their traditional villages to their places of employment. Inadequate infrastructure adds to these problems, especially concerning water supply, sanitation, energy and housing. Resources such as tourism, rain-fed agriculture, minerals and the abundant labour force available in the province, are far from optimally utilized.
To understand the geology and the minerals one must look at the total geological system of South Africa. The Bushveld Igneous Complex covers a very large area of the “Transvaal” extending over four provinces.
About 600 million years ago there occurred beneath the surface of this part of the world a considerable disturbance. In between the sedimentary layers of the Transvaal system there intruded a molten mass of magmatic material consisting of a mixture of dark coloured basic rocks which carry platinum chromites, nickel and iron, and later reddish coloured add granite which carries tin and tungsten.
As this material forced its way into the subterranean layers of the Transvaal System it was fluid and soft. The centre of the overlying landscape subsided into the undermining fluid. A gigantic flat-bottomed basin was formed (a lopolith) with its rim consisting of the remnants of the original high-lying Transvaal system, now appearing in the form of an encircling chain of mountains known in their various parts as the Magaliesberg, Strydpoort etc. This mountain rim dips inward toward the basin. The floor of the basin is extraordinarily flat while below it the lopolith, shaped by the weight and pressure of the intrusive magma, has the form of the bulging curve of a convex lens pointing into the depths.
The Bushveld Complex is famous for its succession of rod types and associated ore deposits. It also possesses a small beautiful) preserved volcanic crater (the Pretoria Saltpan) blown into it by some later minor volcanic activity and filled with commercially valuable mud rich with chloride and carbonate of soda.
The oldest rocks are the granites in the centre of the Vredefort Dome in the southeastern corner of the Northwest Province. The rocks overlying the granite are the sediments of the Witwatersrand Super Group ±2700 million years old. These sediments are host to the richest and most consistent gold reefs in the world. The tin mines and hot springs of the Limpopo Province are found in this system. It occurs in the southeastern corner of the province and can be seen where it is exposed in the Vredefort Dome, and extends as far as the ridge of the Strydpoortberg and Waterberg ranges.
Next in the sequence is the Ventersdorp Lava. These igneous rocks are ±2600 million years old and represent a volcanic era in the earth’s creational history. The Transvaal sequence, occurring in the east, southeast, represents several sedimentary layers. Dolomites and cherts are responsible for the many caves, fountains and sinkholes in these areas. Rocks from the Transvaal Sequences are mined on a small scale where iron and manganese deposits are found.
The western section of the province is covered with Kalahari sand. These sands were blown in from the west, from as far as Angola, over a time span of centuries. These sands cover big areas of both the Transvaal Sequence and the Ventersdorp Lavas. Calcrete underlies the Kalahari sands in most places.
In the southwest corner of the province and close to Pilanesberg is the western rim of the Bushveld Complex. These norites, igneous rock types with a chemical composition different to that of granite, were forced up out of the depths of the earth and were deposited as a lopolith. The lava formed a huge underground lake of molten rock where the fluid was deposited in thin layers because of magmatic segregation. The weight thereof collapsed the underlying sediments and led to the formation of the Magaliesberg Mountain range on the southern and western borders of the deposit. The very rich platinum and chromite mines in the Rustenburg area are exploiting ore bodies in the Bushveld Igneous Complex.