Blaauwbank Mine

Edited 7 Oct  

The discovery of payable gold in the Transvaal at Pilgrim's Rest (1870) and Eersteling (1871) attracted prospectors from all over the world into the region. In 1874 gold was reported on the farm 'Blaauwbank' in the Magaliesberg. Apparently Henry Lewis, an Australian digger and prospector, was working the find at this time. There were indications that there might be gold on other farms in the area and local landowners J.H. and J. Jennings, together with Lewis, sought formal concessions from the government in Pretoria. W.S. Sanders, also a Magaliesberg landowner, was appointed Gold Commissioner, and the area was declared a formal public diggings. Sanders issued the necessary licences to a few diggers but it soon became clear that machinery was needed in order to extract the gold efficiently. The Nil Desperandum Co-Operative Quartz Company was formed to raise capital to invest in the technology required.  This was probably the first gold-mining company to work in the Witwatersrand region.
Government, in dire need of funds, assisted the Blaauwbank development by reducing the licence fee but was to be disappointed because by the end of 1875 still not enough capital had been raised.

In 1877 the Transvaal was annexed by Britain, and the following year interest in the Blaauwbank mine was renewed. More prospecting was done in the locality and the potential was recognized, but money was not forthcoming, either from investors or from government. After the Transvaal regained its independence in 1881, the new government issued a fresh concession on Blaauwbank to Adolf Gates, previously of Kimberley. Gates too was unable to exercise his concession, despite regular reports of gold in and around Blaauwbank. After 1886 small gold mines were somewhat eclipsed by the Witwatersrand main reef but there was still some interest in Blaauwbank and in 1887 it was again declared a public diggings and several companies, later amalgamated into the Blaauwbank United Gold Mines Co. Ltd, formed to exploit it. But the mine closed down and those who had invested in it, lost their money.
Despite its disappointment as a rich lode, Blaauwbank occupies an important place in South Africa's mining history. As James Gray expressed it in Payable Gold,  'it represents the first systematic exploitation for gold in the Witwatersrand district … [and] the zeal and determination with which [early miners] toiled in the expectation of realizing their hopes' (1937:47).

South Africa's North-West province: A Guide to its History and Heritage. © 2017

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