Geoheritage Portfolio

The cultural, scientific and natural heritage of southern Africa constitutes an integral part of the history of this region. A vitally important part of the natural heritage of southern Africa is its outstanding geological heritage, which comprises great geological diversity and spectacular landscapes. Many of our geological superlatives record important evolutionary processes that have occurred on our planet.

The term ‘geoheritage’ originated in Europe, where places and sites of geological importance are recognized and preserved as outstanding natural sites. These sites may be localities where research resulted in fundamental breakthroughs in the understanding of the Earth, its life forms and its history or include unique geological features. Examples in In southern Africa include ‘The Cradle of Creation’ with some of the world’s oldest rocks and primitive life forms preserved in the 3.5 billion year old sediments of the Barberton Mountain Land, the Cradle of Humankind and other palaeoanthropological sites, such as some of the oldest recorded sites where primitive mining had taken place.


A proposed Mission Statement for the GSSA’s Geoheritage portfolio states that:

Geoheritage aims to capture, preserve, interpret and promote the essence of South Africa’s distinctive landscapes which are united by geology, topography, culture and history, thereby creating inspirational destinations which transcend internal and international borders. In striving to fulfil these aims, the Geoheritage Committee will engage synergistically with a wide range of national and international players, agencies and processes including government, grassroots communities, the private sector, and NGOs, amongst others, with an overarching goal of enriching South Africa’s tourism offering and boosting the value of geo-tourism to the regional economy.’

Geoheritage includes South Africa’s iconic (and sometimes unique) landscapes, its mining history, and its record of scientific discovery in the earth sciences. Continental Drift, now unified within the theory plate tectonics, was first proposed by a world famous South African geologist, Alex du Toit, long before it was accepted as fact by the rest of the world.

Key components of Geoheritage include:

  • Identification, documentation and protection of important geological places and sites;
  • Mining heritage, mineral collections and application to future economic development of the country’s mineral resources;
  • South Africa’s natural landscapes and landforms, all controlled by underlying geological formations and processes;
  • Outreach and education in the Earth’s sciences to teach our citizens about planet processes;
  • Tourism and in particular ‘geotourism’; and accessibility of geosites and geological terrains to tourism; and
  • The role of important geological sites and rock and mineral collections in education at the professional level.

One of the roles of the GSSA Geoheritage portfolio is (together with organisations including organisations such as the Council for Geoscience and SAHRA, the South African Heritage Resource agency, is to identify special and unique geological features and to serve as South Africa’s knowledge repository for all aspects of geoheritage. In addition, the GSSA intends to inform and influence regulatory decisions concerning issues of geoheritage, to assist in the execution of high priority geoheritage projects, and to provide public education and outreach on geoheritage matters. Geoheritage should unquestionably be a cornerstone of any National Heritage Strategy, given the economic and scientific importance of South African geology, and its impact on South Africa’s collective culture and economy.