South Africa’s extensive bounty of valuable minerals can be traced to ancient super volcanoes, according to a researcher.

“The super volcanoes of the past 2.7 billion years left us with something unique in the world – after all the drama, our part of the continent was full of diamonds and platinum, and multiple blankets of cooled down lava protected our giant gold deposits from erosion” University of Johannesburg (UJ) paleomagnetist, Prof Michiel de Kock said in a statement.

According to De Kock the earthquakes and molten rock flows caused by ancient super volcanoes left South Africa with the most valuable mineral real estate on the planet.

“Billions of years ago, when the continents we know today had not even been formed yet, the land surface that would become South Africa boasted a whole lot of volcanoes.

Not just little ones that could spew a few small ash clouds. No, these volcanoes were super volcanoes that wreaked havoc far and wide,” said De Kock.

“When these super volcanoes erupted, they caused earthquakes, tsunamis, blew away mountains and covered continents in hot lava.

We know of super volcano eruptions that blew so much ash and gasses into the atmosphere, that global climate changed dramatically. In fact, one such eruption probably caused the biggest mass extinction of life we know about.”

But the super volcanoes did something else too, according to De Kock. Each one blew more than a million cubic kilometers of molten rock from deep within our Earth towards the surface.

This molten rock, or lava, also contributed to shaping the land mass we live on today. The eruptions even caused ancient continents at several instances to break up and re-form in new ways.

Despite the region’s turbulent past SA is now part of a land mass where earthquakes are rare and live volcano do not exist.

UJ has the only laboratory on the African continent that allows scientists to trace the paths of drift of continents through time.

On August 3, Prof De Kock is presenting a public lecture entitled “South Africa’s super-volcano record” at the Sanlam Auditorium at the Kingsway Auckland Park Campus, from 13:00 – 14:00.