Some two billion years ago, a series of violent volcanic eruptions, which took place over a period of millions of years, gave rise to a rich body of minerals, which became known as the Palabora Igneous Complex.
The unique ore body outcropping at a small saddleback hill, later to be called Loolekop, contains a unique variety of minerals - copper, phosphates, magnetite, uranium, zirconium, nickel, gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. Two other volcanic pipes nearby contain vermiculite and phosphate.
Smelting of copper iron occurred in the district prior to the discovery. We know from the artifacts found in the area, that copper of remarkable purity was produced in the Phalaborwa area as early as the 8th century.
Development of modern mining activity started at the beginning of the century when several geologists noted the occurrence of the phosphate bearing mineral, apatite, in the vicinity of Loolekop.