Mining Diamonds - Colesberg Kopje

Mining Diamonds - Colesberg Kopje Tragedies and Triumphs Famous Historical Events History Social Studies

As men looked for diamonds, soon after they were first discovered in South Africa, the landscape holding the precious stones was quickly transformed. 

Serious prospecting began at a place known as Colesberg Kopje (later called the Kimberley Mine)—as seen in this image of Fleetwood Rawstone's "Red Cap Party." This 1871 photo is also depicted in Every Step of the Way: The Journey to Freedom in South Africa, by Michael Morris and John Linnegar, at page 108.

There's a story told about this place:

Imagine finding diamonds in the walls of a farmhouse. Or having one of your labourers turn up with what would prove to be the greatest find of the century [the Star of South Africa]!

These are only two of the unusual events which form part of the colourful history of Kimberley and which triggered the first diamond rush into the Kimberley area.

Colesberg Kopje, where in 1871 the labourer found his diamonds, would later become known as the Kimberley Mine or the Big Hole, the most famous diamond mine in the world. As tens of thousands of diggers from all over the world rushed to peg out the whole area, the entire hillock quickly vanished as a result of their feverish digging, soon to be replaced by a hole which eventually reached colossal proportions.

Around the hole a shanty town sprang up, and the new town, New Rush, was born. Many diggers lived in tents, others built small houses from wood and corrugated iron. In 1873 the mushrooming town’s name was changed to Kimberley, in honour of the Earl of Kimberley, British Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Thousands of cables, separating competing claims, were eventually seen at the Kimberley mine.  The authors describe their purpose in Every Step:

Hundreds of cables, by which the diamond-bearing rock was drawn to the sorting tables, linked individual claims with the surface of the Kimberley mine.  (From Every Step, pages 112 and 113.)

Given the extremely long period of time that it takes for diamonds to form, miners removed those precious gems (made of pure carbon) from the Kimberley area in relatively short order.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Aug 21, 2019

Media Credits

Nineteenth-century photos of diamond mining at Kimberley from Every Step of the Way: The Journey to Freedom in South Africa, by Michael Morris and John Linnegar. 

Online, courtesy South Africa's Ministry of Education and Google Books.


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"Mining Diamonds - Colesberg Kopje" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Aug 21, 2019.
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