- Impala Platinum
Southern African Pyrometallurgy 2006 International Conference
Cradle of Humankind, South Africa, 5-8 March 2006
World Heritage sites
South Africa has seven UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites:
- Greater St Lucia Wetland Park
- Cradle of Humankind - Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein,
Swartkrans, Kromdraai, and Environs
- Robben Island
- UKhahlamba / Drakensberg Park
- Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape
- Cape Floral Region Protected Areas
- Vredefort Dome Meteorite Impact Site
South Africa is rich in grasslands, savannah, and forest, although the greater
portion is dry thornveld and semi-desert. Average rainfall is 464mm - little
more than half the world's average. Most rivers are bone dry most of the
time, for only 10% of rainfall reaches the rivers, much of it being lost in
evaporation. All of South Africa's rivers together provide less than one-eighth
of the water of the Mississippi alone.
However, Johannesburg, on the highveld, with an average annual rainfall
of 710mm (28 inches) gets more rain than London, which averages 593mm
(23 inches). But it rains on fewer than 80 days a year in Johannesburg,
and the sun shines for about 3 200 hours each year, averaging more than
8.5 hours of highveld sunshine every day. 'Sunny South Africa' boasts
that title because sunshine varies from 7.5 to 9.5 hours on average daily,
compared with 3.8 in London and 6.9 in New York.
Johannesburg weather, around the begininng of March, is usually very pleasant
indeed. Daytime temperatures of around 25 degrees C (77 degrees F) are typical,
dropping to about 15 degrees C (about 60 degrees F) overnight, although it can
get quite cool if it rains. Sunrise takes place around 6:00 am, and
sunset is about 6:30 pm.
South Africa has been known for a long time as the world's biggest producer
of gold, but is also the biggest producer of platinum, chromium, vanadium,
manganese and alumino-silicates. Nearly fifty minerals, from andalusite to
zirconium, are mined. The Big Hole at Kimberley, where diamonds were mined,
is the largest hand-dug excavation on earth. Western Deep levels gold mine,
at 3 777 metres (about two and a half miles), is the deepest in the world.
The Rand Refinery is the largest refinery of gold in the world.
Electricity costs are reputed to be the second lowest in the world.
Wildlife, Birds, Plants
South Africa's richest heritage, however, may lie in its variety of wildlife.
The 'Big Five' (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, rhino) are the most
sought after for viewing and photography, but there are more kinds of mammals
here than in North and South America combined; or Europe and Asia together.
There are more than 100 varieties of snake, and 5000 species of spider.
South Africa is home to:
- The largest land mammal (the African elephant)
- The smallest (a shrew the size of a human's fingertip)
- The tallest creature (the giraffe)
- The fastest mammal (the cheetah)
- The largest reptile (the leatherback turtle)
- The largest antelope (the eland)
- The largest bird (the ostrich)
- The heaviest flying bird (the Kori Bustard)
Increasing numbers of visitors come to see bird life of more than 900
species - 10% of the planet's selection on only 1% of its land surface.
The region has 23 200 different plants, of which nearly 19 000 are endemic,
making it the richest region in the world in terms of species to area
- 1.7 times richer even than Brazil. Within the region is the Cape Floral
Kingdom, the tiniest in the world, but also the richest, with 8 500 species;
6 000 of them found nowhere else on Earth. This area produces 300 varieties
of erica alone; two-thirds of the world's total.
Under the new Constitution there are 11 official languages. They are
Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda,
Xhosa, and Zulu. English is widely understood, though not the
largest home language.
Casual clothing is recommended for visitors, with warmer attire needed for
early morning and evening outings. Dress codes for most restaurants and
hotels permit casual wear - exceptions are those that are very upmarket;
for game reserves and hiking expeditions safari clothing and comfortable
shoes are suggested.
Johannesburg International Airport is the main point of arrival for those
coming from outside the country, although the much smaller Lanseria Airport
is actually closer to the conference venue.
Approximate flight times:
Durban to Johannesburg: 1 hour
Cape Town to Johannesburg: 2 hours
Sao Paulo to Johannesburg: 9 hours
London to Johannesburg: 11 hours
Perth to Johannesburg: 11 hours
Atlanta to Johannesburg: 15 hours
Johannesburg airport is normally less than an hour's drive from the Cradle of
Humankind, but this does depend on traffic conditions. During peak periods,
such as from 7am-8:30am and 4pm-6pm on weekdays, the journey could easily take
half an hour longer. Taxis are available at the airport, and several companies
offer a shuttle service to and from the airport.
Most passport holders need visas to get into South Africa. Check with your
local travel agent to determine if you need one. Passports should be valid
for at least six months beyond the intended duration of your stay, and should
have a few blank pages, to avoid complications. Upon arrival, you must be
able to prove that you have enough money to support yourself during your
stay. You must also have a valid return ticket. Visa inquiries can be
directed to the South African Department of Home Affairs: +27 12 314 8911.
The local currency is the South African Rand, which at the beginning of March
2006 was exchanging at about R6.20 to the US Dollar, R7.20 to the Euro, and
R10.80 to the British Pound. Foreign exchange facilities can be found at the
airport and in many banks, while Automatic Teller Machines will accept many
international bank and credit cards. The following are in use: Notes - R200,
R100, R50, R20, R10; Coins - R5, R2, R1, 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c.
Banks and Credit Cards
South Africa has a modern and sophisticated banking and commercial system.
Banks are located throughout the cities and suburbs, and are open from
9am to 3:30pm on Mondays to Fridays, and from 8:30am to 11am on Saturdays.
Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are widely available 24 hours a day.
Most shops and hotels will accept credit cards, although petrol / gasoline
cannot be purchased on a credit card. Some banks issue a special 'petro'
or 'garage' card for this purpose.
Value Added Tax (VAT)
South Africa has adopted a Value Added Tax system of 14% on purchases
and services. If you are a foreign visitor to South Africa, you can
reclaim your VAT on some purchases if you've spent more than R250, at
the VAT office at the airport before checking in for departure. Leave
yourself some time to do this - you'll need your original tax invoices
and your passport, and will need to fill in a form and have the goods
you bought available for inspection.
Many waiters and waitresses are university students who rely on tips to
pay their wages. A 10% tip is acceptable although up to 15% may be given
if service is outstanding. Tables of over eight often have an automatic
10% service charge added to their bill. A tip of R2 per piece of luggage
is acceptable to porters in hotels and at airports.
South African time is set at GMT +2. There are no time zone differences
within South Africa, and there is no daylight time saving system in summer.
Although South Africa does have a high crime rate, most visitors to the
country will not be affected. However, reasonable sensible precautions
should be taken, especially with valuable items such as wallets, cellphones,
cameras, and computers. Do not walk alone after dark in unpopulated streets
or draw attention to money or jewellery. The emergency police phone number
In many ways, this country is a very safe one to visit. Earthquakes, tidal
waves, and hurricanes are extremely rare to non-existent. You can also take
comfort from the fact that South Africa is currently the only country in the
world which has voluntarily dismantled its nuclear arsenal.
220/230 volts AC at 50 cycles per second. Three pronged plugs are generally
used, so bring an adapter. Most hotel rooms have 110 volt outlets for electric
shavers and small appliances.
South Africa is one of only 12 countries where tap water is safe to drink.
Its tap water is rated the third best worldwide.