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Brief history of gold mining in South Africa. INCLUDING MAJOR EVENTS. 1873. First large-scale production began when alluvial deposits were discovered at Pilgrims Rest. 1884. Gold was discovered in the Witwatersrand which led to an influx of miners from around the world. 1886 -. Economic activity in modern-day South Africa has been centred on mining activities, their ancillary services and supplies. The countrys stock exchange in Johannesburg was established in 1887, a decade after the first diamonds were discovered on the banks of the Orange River, and almost simultaneously with the gold rush on the world-famous Witwatersrand.