Cyanide on the Rand: Competing Methods of Technology Transfer

48 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2022

See all articles by Muhan Hu

Muhan Hu

University of Melbourne

Lyndon Moore

Monash University

Date Written: September 20, 2022


We study technology diffusion mechanisms using a unique historical setting: the introduction of the cyanide method of gold extraction on the Witwatersrand goldfields in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mines managed by the same mining house were more likely to adopt the new process, which increased extraction rates by around 50%. Cyanide technology was continually improved after its introduction. We find evidence of knowledge spillovers from engineers and mine managers but not white-collar employees. Geographical spillovers are extremely localized in nature.

Keywords: Productivity, Innovation, Technology Spillover, Network Effects

JEL Classification: O31

Suggested Citation

Hu, Muhan and Moore, Lyndon, Cyanide on the Rand: Competing Methods of Technology Transfer (September 20, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Muhan Hu (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne ( email )

Department of Finance
198 Berkeley Street
Melbourne, Victoria 3053

HOME PAGE: http://

Lyndon Moore

Monash University ( email )

23 Innovation Walk
Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3800

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