Mining Mirror May 2018 - Page 32

Lessons from the past Building an exploration culture Gold and diamonds formed the bedrock on which the culture of exploration in southern African was built. G old, found north of the Limpopo, had for centuries been exported through the eastern ports of Africa, first by the Arab traders and later by the Portuguese, until the Matabele drove them from the area. According to a chapter written by Mike de Wit in the book Prospecting in Africa, which was published by De Beers in 2011, hundreds of old mine workings for gold and some for copper and iron existed in areas north of the Limpopo River. These occurrences attracted many adventurers and explorers, such as elephant hunter Henry Hartley, geologist Karl Mauch, and explorer and artist Thomas Baines. They entered from the south and moved northwards into the areas referred to as Bechuanaland and Rhodesia. An excerpt from the book follows: “Baines represented the South African Gold Fields Exploration Company and pegged the first gold claims in Mashonaland in 1869 with the blessing of Lobengula, the king of the Ndebele (Matabele). In 1887, Lobengula gave the Tati Concession on the north-eastern boundary of Bechuanaland to the Tati Concession Mining and Exploration Company. “Diamonds were discovered in Griqualand West, South Africa, in 1869 and, in 1871, Cecil John Rhodes, then 18 years old, gave up farming in Natal and, determined to make his fortune from diamonds, made his way to the so-called ‘dry diamond diggings’, which in 1873 became proclaimed as the town of Kimberley. He started amalgamating the many individual claims over the new diamond fields with the help of Albert Beit. In 1888, after the final amalgamation of rival Barney Barnato’s interests, Rhodes took control of the Kimberley diamond mines and founded [30] MINING MIRROR MAY 2018 De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited, the name of which was taken from the De Beers brothers who were owners of the farm Vooruitzicht on which the Colesberg Kopje discovery, now known as the Kimberley Mine, was made. Two years earlier, in 1886, gold had been discovered on the Witwatersrand, and Rhodes was instrumental in setting up the Consolidated Gold Fields of South Africa in 1887. With the newly created and powerful companies, he pursued his ambitions to expand the British influence northwards as quickly as possible. The third major company Rhodes created was the British South Africa Company (BSAC) in 1889, initially not for the purpose of generating cash flow, but rather to facilitate his expansionary vision. As part of this vision, Charles D Rudd, representing Rhodes, secured the Rudd Concession by obtaining exclusive access in 1888 to all metals and minerals in Lobengula’s kingdom north of the Limpopo River and the right to mine these. In 1889, Lord Gifford, Edmund Davis and George Cawston had formed the Bechuanaland Exploration Company Limited to explore for minerals in a concession in Bechuanaland granted to them by Khama III, the paramount chief of the Bamangwato. In 1889, despite their rivalry, Rhodes, Rudd and Beit, representing the Consolidated Gold Fields, and Lord Gifford on behalf of the Bechuanaland Exploration Company, jointly applied through the Colonial Offices in London for a royal charter to develop a mining industry up to the Zambezi River. From “Laying the foundation for an exploration culture” by Mike de Wit, published in the book Prospecting in Africa: Narratives by early De Beers explorers in search for diamonds. The book was edited by M.C.J. de Wit, E.O. Köstlin and R.S. Liddle. The book was published by De Beers. The above article was edited by Leon Louw.