Johannesburg no longer contains abundant gold reserves, the Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni said.
Speaking to Business Report, Mboweni said reprocessing the South African mine dumps was the only activity that remained of earlier mining work in Johannesburg.
"South Africa was once a global leader in gold mining and gold constituted well over 50% of South African exports. Well, that is no longer the case," Mboweni said.
According to the reserve bank's latest quarterly bulletin, second quarter gold accounted for only 9% of total exports and China has ousted South Africa to take top position in global gold production.
"This is largely due to gold reserves in this country being depleted and what little is left is getting more difficult to extract as mining becomes a deeper activity and therefore too costly," Mboweni said.
This indicates that South Africa cannot capitalise on record gold prices of over $1,060 (R7,802) an ounce.
During the 1980's gold boom, South Africa was able to take advantage of record price levels of gold which was more than $850 an ounce.