SA: 26y Old Zimbabwean Discovers Arguably World’s Largest Gold Reserve
31 March 2024
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By Farai D Hove | In an astonishing breakthrough that combines the realms of academic achievement and geological exploration, Dr. Steve Chingwaru, a recent PhD graduate from South Africa’s Stellenbosch University (SU), has made a discovery poised to reshape the mining industry on a global scale. At only 26, Chingwaru’s research not only earned him a doctorate but also uncovered what may be the world’s largest gold reserve, potentially worth an astounding R450 billion.

Steve Chingwaru

Chingwaru’s journey to this monumental discovery has roots that run deep into his heritage. Born in Zimbabwe and raised in Johannesburg by his aunt, he comes from a lineage of miners and prospectors, notably his grandfather George Nolan, a legendary figure who once discovered lithium in Zimbabwe. Despite Nolan’s financial losses over time, Chingwaru seems destined to not only revive but also vastly expand his family’s legacy in mineral exploration.

The essence of Chingwaru’s research revolves around the concept of “invisible gold” within the mine dumps of Johannesburg’s Witwatersrand basin. These dumps, which are essentially accumulations of historical mine waste, are believed to contain over six billion tonnes of material. Through his groundbreaking work, Chingwaru has identified that these tailings house up to 460 tons of gold, locked within minerals and thus previously deemed too challenging and uneconomical to extract.

Chingwaru’s PhD project, which initially started as a Master’s before being elevated due to its significance, delves into the characterisation and potential extraction methods of this gold. His approach addresses both the technical feasibility and environmental concerns tied to the tailings, such as the prevention of acid mine drainage—a significant problem resulting from the oxidation of pyrite in the dumps.

His work shines a light on the opportunity to revisit what was once considered waste, transforming it into a valuable resource. By devising methods to efficiently and environmentally safely extract gold from low-grade sources, Chingwaru is paving the way for a more sustainable and lucrative future for the mining industry. This is particularly relevant as traditional mining ventures deeper underground, becoming more hazardous and less cost-effective.

Chingwaru’s academic career, though still in its early stages, has already garnered him international acclaim. His research has been published in prestigious journals, and he’s been a featured guest in media and academic forums worldwide. Beyond the academic accolades, what stands out about Chingwaru is his deep-rooted love for Africa and his commitment to contributing to its scientific and economic advancement.

Looking forward, Chingwaru is exploring opportunities to continue his work abroad, with positions in Australia and Germany under consideration. However, his heart remains in Africa, where he aims to leverage his discoveries for the continent’s benefit.

Through his pioneering research, Dr. Steve Chingwaru has not only carved out a promising career path but also stands as a beacon of inspiration for aspiring scientists across Africa and beyond. His story—a blend of personal ambition, academic excellence, and a profound connection to his roots—echoes the potential of Africa’s young minds to drive significant advancements in science and industry.