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Palabora mine (Foscor open pit; PMC mine), Loolekop, Phalaborwa, Limpopo Province, South Africa

This page kindly sponsored by Malcolm Southwood
Latitude & Longitude (WGS84): 23° 58' 59'' South , 31° 4' 0'' East
Latitude & Longitude (decimal): -23.98333,31.06667
Other regions containing this locality:Transvaal, South Africa
Köppen climate type:BSh : Hot semi-arid (steppe) climate

A copper-(U-)(Zr-)apatite-vermiculite mine located near Phalaborwa in Limpopo Province (previously NE Transvaal). Apatite production occurred 1932-1934. Vermiculite production began 1946. Copper mining commenced 1965 and was fully operational by 1967.

The town name is Phalaborwa, the geological formation is the Phalaborwa Complex and the mine Palabora mine.

Ore is in the Phalaborwa carbonatite complex. The largest open-pit mine in South Africa. Owned by Palabora Mining Company, Ltd.; RTZ (Manager).

The Phalaborwa Complex covers an area of 1950 hectares and it consists mainly of a phlogopite- and apatite rich pyroxenite. This pyroxenite is intruded successively by a series of more differentiated rocks - foskorite (phoscorite), and olivine- magnetite- apatite- phlogopite rock and finally a central intrusion of sövite (transgressive carbonatite). The sövite intrusion shows an intimate relationship with foskorite. The sövite (50 hectares at the surface) is composed of calcite and magnetite with minor amounts of dolomite, apatite, chalcopyrite, bornite and various silicates. Furthermore, uraninite-thorianite and baddeleyite are important accessory minerals. The sövite is being mined by large-scale opencast methods mainly for copper with uranium, zirconium and minute amounts of platinum as by-products. The foskorite is mined for the extraction of phosphate. The resources of apatite from the foskorite and the pyroxenite are enormous.

Commodity List

This is a list of exploitable or exploited mineral commodities recorded at this locality.

Mineral List

87 valid minerals.

Regional Geology

This geological map and associated information on rock units at or nearby to the coordinates given for this locality is based on relatively small scale geological maps provided by various national Geological Surveys. This does not necessarily represent the complete geology at this locality but it gives a background for the region in which it is found.

Click on geological units on the map for more information. Click here to view full-screen map on

2500 - 4000 Ma

ID: 2227623
Makhutswi Gneiss

Age: Archean (2500 - 4000 Ma)

Stratigraphic Name: Makhutswi Gneiss

Description: Homogeneous, light grey (leucocratic) medium-grained granodioritic/tonalitic biotite gneiss

Reference: Council for Geoscience. Geologic map of South Africa, 1:1M. National Science Councils of South Africa. [41]

Mesoarchean - Paleoarchean
2800 - 3600 Ma

ID: 3187538
Archean crystalline metamorphic rocks

Age: Archean (2800 - 3600 Ma)

Lithology: Crystalline metamorphic rocks

Reference: Chorlton, L.B. Generalized geology of the world: bedrock domains and major faults in GIS format: a small-scale world geology map with an extended geological attribute database. doi: 10.4095/223767. Geological Survey of Canada, Open File 5529. [154]

Data and map coding provided by, used under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License

This page contains all mineral locality references listed on This does not claim to be a complete list. If you know of more minerals from this site, please register so you can add to our database. This locality information is for reference purposes only. You should never attempt to visit any sites listed in without first ensuring that you have the permission of the land and/or mineral rights holders for access and that you are aware of all safety precautions necessary.


Sort by Year (asc) | by Year (desc) | by Author (A-Z) | by Author (Z-A)
Sawyer, A.R. (1892) Mining. Geological and general guide to the Murchison range. John Heywood, Amen Corner, London, 96 pages.
Hanekom, H.J., Van Staden, C.M., Smit, P.J., and Pike, D.R. (1965) The geology of the Phalaborwa igneous complex. Memoir of the Geological Society of South Africa 54, 185pp.
Herbert, I.C. (1967) Palabora. Mining Magazine 116, 4-5, 7, 9-11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25.
Frick, C. (1975) The Phalaborwa syenite intrusion. Transactions of the Geological Society of South Africa 78, 201-213.
Mining Annual Review (1985) 411.
Verwoerd, W.J. (1986) Mineral deposits associated with carbonatites and alkaline rocks. In: Mineral deposits of Southern Africa. Vol. II. 2173-2191. Edited by: Annhaeusser and Maske. Geological Society of South Africa.
Gliddon, J.P and Braithwaite, R.S.W. (1991) Zeolites and Associated Minerals from the Palabora Mine, Transvaal. Mineralogical Record 22(4), 255-262.
Cairncross, B. and Dixon, R. (1995) Minerals of South Africa. The Geological Society of South Africa.
Karchevskii, P.I. (2000) Minerals of Sr and REE in carbonatites from Loolekop deposit (Palabora, RSA). Zapiski Vserossiiskogo Mineralogicheskogo Obshchestva 129, 99-109.
Groves, D.I. and Vielreicher, N.M. (2001) The Phalaborwa (Palabora) carbonatite-hosted magnetite-copper sulfide deposit, South Africa: an end-member of the iron-oxide copper-gold-rare earth element deposit group? Mineralium Deposita 36, 189-194.
Gliddon, J. (1996) Minerals of the Palabora open pit. British Micromount Society 43, 2-7.
Southwood, M. and Cairncross, B. (2017) The minerals of Palabora mine. Rocks & Minerals, 92, 426-452.

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